The Phony Campaign

2023-04-30 Update

Before I send it to the shredder:

[get ron's book]

Gee, Ron, sending the Republican Party of Florida $75 for a book I can buy at Amazon for $21.00 (hardcover) or $16.99 (Kindle): why would I want to do that? Or, for that matter, for a book I could just borrow from the Portsmouth Public Library for no charge? (As I type, it's "available for loan", meaning it's not exactly in heavy demand.)

From the accompanying letter:

Personal Correspondence
RSVP in the next 7 days!
Return Envelope Enclosed

Dear Fellow Patriot,

    I couldn't do this for everyone.

    But because you are one of the Republican Party's top 1% of supporters, I've…

Holy cats, Ron. Stop. Just stop.

You could do this for everyone. And I bet you would do it to anyone who you thought had the slightest inclination to drop some cash on you.

And, for the record, I'm not one of the Republican Party's top 1% of supporters. I'm pretty sure I'm not even in the top 100%. (Yes, I'm registered that way with the state; that makes me literally a Republican In Name Only.)

Well, so much for my personal brush with phoniness this week. What do Google and Election Betting Odds have to say?

Oooh, Nikki Haley's back with us:

Candidate EBO Win
Hit Count
Ron DeSantis 13.5% -0.1% 16,500,000 +7,290,000
Donald Trump 26.3% -0.6% 1,060,000 -470,000
Joe Biden 34.7% -1.7% 400,000 -49,000
Kamala Harris 2.7% +0.3% 106,000 -37,000
Nikki Haley 2.0% --- 39,700 ---
Other 20.8% +0.1% --- ---

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

And I can't help but notice that 20.8% probability for "other" is the highest it's been since I started keeping track back in March. Surely, someone else will save us from this crop of phonies!

  • At least this means he can still read a cheat sheet. Noah Rothman details Biden’s Journalist Cheat Sheet: The New Collusion Scandal.

    If you’re like the 70 percent of Americans who don’t want to see Joe Biden run for president again, 79 percent of whom cite to some degree his advanced age as the reason for their trepidation, the president is eager to allay your concerns.

    “What do you say to them?” one reporter asked. “What do you say to those Americans who are watching and aren’t convinced?” To this, Biden replied mechanically. He redirected reporters’ attention away from the polling on voters’ discomfort with the president’s empirical decrepitude to his job-approval numbers, which Biden defended as middling and, therefore, unremarkable compared with past presidents. “Number two,” Biden replied, glancing down at the lectern, “when the same polling asked whether they think what kind of job I’ve done, it gets overwhelmingly positive results.”

    “With regard to age, I can’t even say I guess how old I am,” Biden added extemporaneously. “It doesn’t — it doesn’t register with me.” He concluded: “I feel good.”

    It was a practiced response, which makes sense considering the White House press shop probably had plenty of time to practice a response to this reporter’s inquiry.

    Enterprising reporters armed with telescopic lenses attending that press conference captured the stack of cards the president was holding at the time, one of which featured the name and image of the reporter slated to ask “question #1.” Moreover, that card included the contents of the question that was to be posed to the senescent president.

    Gee, how did the "Democracy Dies in Darkness" Washington Post cover this?

    Mainly with "everybody does it" handwaving, referring to "dirty little secrets of presidential news conferences: They’re less spontaneous and freewheeling than they appear to be, with a fair amount of stage managing behind them."

    But, yeah, the reporter told the White House what she was going to ask about ahead of time.

  • Make sure he knows what he's running for, so he'll give the right answer when asked. President Wheezy also announced his candidacy last week. Rich Lowry sees what's coming: Joe Biden Prepares His Next Basement Campaign.

    Joe Biden is going to run for reelection.

    One question this raises: How is anyone going to tell?

    The basement presidency is about to embark on another basement campaign.

    Biden’s political genius turns out to be not provoking strong negative emotions because no one particularly thinks of him as being in charge or as having anything interesting to say.

    President Biden and the people around him are, in effect, conducting a large-scale, ongoing political-science experiment: Is it possible to run a left-wing government — with tactics often frankly at odds with our constitutional system — and avoid a massive backlash by having a president at the top who appears ineffectual and out of touch?

    Well, when a complaisant press is already furnishing Biden with clues about the softball questions he's going to pretend to answer spontaneously, I'd say: yeah, it's possible.

  • I detect a possible play on words… in Charles C. W. Cooke's headline: Biden Is Not Immune to RFK Jr..

    In accordance with its primary purpose, which is to ensure that the Democratic politicians whom it favors are successfully elected to public office, the American press corps has thus far underplayed the threat that Robert F. Kennedy Jr. poses to President Biden’s bid for a second term.

    Coverage of RFK Jr.’s bid has been focused predominantly on the question of whether a challenger is likely to succeed per se — that is, on the question of whether RFK Jr. will achieve his goal of unseating President Biden as the Democratic nominee. As most observers have noted, the answer to this question is an emphatic no. Not since 1856 has a sitting president sought and lost his party’s nomination for reelection. Absent an unthinkable cataclysm, this cycle is not going to break that trend.

    As a historical matter, however, this is the wrong question to ask. A better question to ask — a question that Joe Biden ought to be asking himself daily — is whether RFK Jr. will end up doing so much damage to Biden that he will help to deny Biden a second term. It remains the case that at no point in the last 50 years has being seriously challenged for the nomination worked out well for an incumbent president. And, at the moment, RFK Jr.’s challenge is, indeed, serious. The first poll taken since he announced showed him taking 14 percent of the Democratic primary vote — an astonishingly high number for a newly declared candidate. Should this level of support persist, it might well prove lethal. No president in the past half-century has won reelection after surviving a primary challenger who got into the double digits. Is there anything about the 80-year-old Joe Biden that makes one think he’d buck that trend?

    No predictions here. I learned my lesson back in 2016.

  • Unfortunately, he's got a lot of allies. Dan McLaughlin surveys the battlefront of Donald Trump’s War on Reason & Reality.

    On Friday, Donald Trump’s campaign launched a rhetorical fusillade against Republican governance of Florida, arguing that under Ron DeSantis, “Florida continues to tumble into complete and total delinquency and destruction,” that “the real DeSantis record is one of misery and despair,” and that DeSantis “has left a wake of destruction all across Florida” What followed was a series of tendentious bullet-point contentions:

    On DeSantis’ watch, Florida has become one of the least affordable states to live in the country. Under Ron DeSantis, Florida has become among the worst states. . . . To Live. . . .To Find Economic Opportunity. . . . To Work. . . . To Retire. . . . To Raise a Family. . . . To Pay Taxes. . . . To Be Safe. . . . To Rent a Home. . . . To Have A Baby. . . . To Afford Energy. . . . To Die. . . . To Be a Teacher. . . . To Be a Doctor. . . . To Be a Police Officer. . . . For Millennials. . . . For Working Dads. . . . For Working Moms. . . .

    Among the sources cited by Trump: ESPN, Oxfam, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the left-wing Florida Policy Institute, the Hill, and NBC News. He followed up by touting a quote from Joy Reid. Yet again, as he has done so often in attacking DeSantis, Trump is amplifying the arguments of Democrats and the Left and demanding that his supporters agree with those arguments.

    I am, however, assured that Disney World is the happiest place on earth. Even though Science continues to say it's Finland instead.

  • Kamala still is hanging in our phony standings, I assume kept there by bettors who are eyeing the mortality tables. Meanwhile, according to the official transcript of a recent appearance, she may be onto something:

    So I think it’s very important — as you have heard from so many incredible leaders — for us, at every moment in time, and certainly this one, to see the moment in time in which we exist and are present, and to be able to contextualize it, to understand where we exist in the history and in the moment as it relates not only to the past, but the future.

    Did I say she might be onto something? Sorry, I meant to say she might be on something.

  • Now if she'd only get real on her electoral chances… The WSJ editorialists congratulate Nikki: Nikki Haley Gets Real on Abortion.

    Republicans urgently need to sort out their political argument on abortion, and the best effort we’ve heard so far is Nikki Haley’s speech on Tuesday combining the moral case against abortion with a politics of persuasion and humility.

    Ms. Haley called abortion “a deeply personal topic for both women and men,” and she treated the issue with the compassion and seriousness it demands. “I know how hard pregnancy can be” and “many women have it much harder.” A friend was raped and feared an unwanted pregnancy, “an anguish I wouldn’t wish on anyone.”

    Ms. Haley described herself as “pro-life,” both “unapologetic and unhesitant about it,” and cited measures she signed as South Carolina Governor. Judges in Roe v. Wade imposed a national abortion standard that “much of the country found deeply offensive.” Roe’s downfall last year was right on the legal merits and an enormous victory for the pro-life movement.

    But she tempered that conviction with political realism. “The pro-life laws that have passed in strongly Republican states”—bills that ban the procedure after a heartbeat is detected at six weeks, for instance—“will not be approved at the federal level,” she said.

    I have fairly pro-life views myself, but (as Nikki notes) they aren't likely to totally fly in a country where a lot of womenfolk think it's perfectly OK to snuff out an innocent, but inconvenient, life.

Last Modified 2024-01-30 6:11 AM EDT

Did I Miss Stratego?

Funny-because-true offering from the genius video team of Bragg and Heaton. Everything Is Political: Board Games.

I could well have missed Stratego. It's very fast-paced.

Briefly noted:

  • I'm not a card-carrying member of… At Liberty Unyielding, the poster "Thersites"—an apparent nom de plume which I'm not even sure how to pronounce—looks at a party with a shrinking tent. Libertarian Party head attacks vaccines; Lefty former LP head advocates trillions in welfare spending.

    The Libertarian Party is America’s third-largest political party. It is also shrinking, even though polls show the likely major party candidates in the 2024 election, Joe Biden and Donald Trump, are both very unpopular. The Boston Herald reports that most Americans wish they had a choice other than Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

    Logically, this should be a golden age for the Libertarian Party, which could pick up voters fleeing the Democratic and Republican Parties. But the Libertarian Party chose to drive those voters away, by first pushing “woke” left-wing positions, then pushing anti-vax, Pro-Russian propaganda. So people are fleeing the Libertarian Party instead.

    On April 21, the current head of the Libertarian Party, Angela McArdle, praised the decline in child vaccinations worldwide, which will result in the deaths of thousands of children (not vaccinations for COVID, which virtually never kills children, but for the childhood diseases that have historically killed millions of children worldwide). UNICEF had lamented on Twitter that “We’re facing the largest continuous decline in childhood vaccinations in 30 years….millions of children’s futures are at risk.” McArdle had responded to the tweet by saying, “We are winning.”

    I can't claim to be "fleeing" the LP, since I'm not a registered LP voter, and I've successfully avoided sending them money. But I have often voted for the LP candidates in elections. That seems unlikely in the near, or even the far, future.

    Back in 2021, I listened to a Soho Forum Debate between Angela McArdle and Free State Project board member Jeremy Kauffman. McArdle chortled over an apparent purge of previous LP leadership for their insufficiently pure reaction to Covid policies: "Those people are gone and they're not coming back."

    Guess what, Angela? I'm gone, and I'm not coming back. At least not under current leadership.

  • Boy, this headline sounds as if it could be another LP purity test: Which Side Are You On? But it's Kevin D. Williamson, belonging to no party that would have him as a member. Just a slice from the middle:

    The energy sector isn’t waiting on federal infrastructure subsidies to make big investments—firms across that industry are ready to spend their own money on necessary work that will have the welcome effect of creating a lot of new job opportunities for American workers. But they can’t—either the government stops them outright, as with Biden and Keystone XL, or endless activist-led lawsuits and reviews make projects economically unviable.

    That’s why Westinghouse is building a new nuclear power plant in Poland instead of Texas, Florida, or California. The Biden administration spent months complaining about high gasoline prices, but U.S. refining capacity has been dropping in recent years while refineries are booming in Asia and the Middle East. U.S. producers could be doing a lot more to help our European allies replace Russian natural gas—doing well while doing good—but U.S. gas liquefaction facilities are already operating at or near capacity. While there is a lot of investment happening there right now, that new capacity won’t come fully online for some time, and, when it does, it will rely on those troubled ports to get where it is going. Expanding U.S. exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) will require big investments in port infrastructure—and the environmentalists who so often have the Biden administration’s ear bitterly oppose these.

    And that’s the Biden administration’s double-bind: The country needs a great deal of real investment in energy and transportation, two critical areas that can be mutually reinforcing but that also impose their vulnerabilities on one another. On the other side, we have union bosses willing to hold key transit hubs hostage and utopian environmentalists who believe that the economy can be run on happy thoughts and good intentions—two interest groups whose economic interests may not always match up exactly but who share a political vehicle.

    I guess I could vote for a candidate who would come out against people freezing to death in the dark. I could see that.

  • I still have my National Review "Don't let THEM Immanentize the Eschaton!" button somewhere. Nowadays the NR editors have more modest goals: Don’t Let Them Rewrite the Pandemic.

    The Covid-19 pandemic ravaged the elderly and the sick in this country. It inspired or terrified us into huge social, governmental, and economic experiments. “Lockdown” stopped being just prison jargon. We have long since entered an appropriate period of reflection and investigation. Fights about masks, social-distancing, quarantines, and closures of churches, parks, and other amenities disfigured the normal rhythm of human life, marring funerals and delaying weddings. We are now uncovering years of learning loss and missed developmental milestones in children who were deprived of needed socialization, structured play, and face-to-face learning for speech development.

    These particular maladies and the way America was an outlier in them are at the feet of our institutions and their leaders. Which is why they are lying so much about their records.

    This week in his interview with the New York Times, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of NIAID and the most prominent member of the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force, gave his latest assessment of the efficacy of masks. “From a broad public-health standpoint, at the population level, masks work at the margins — maybe 10 percent,” he explained. “But for an individual who religiously wears a mask, a well-fitted KN95 or N95, it’s not at the margin. It really does work.”

    Also nained by the editors for lying about her role: Randi Weingarten. In addition to their (relatively) short-term damage to the country during Covid, both Fauci and Weingarten probably did long term damage to the credibility of the institutions they were trying to protect.

A Really Big Can, on a Very Long Road

My CongressCritter is always irritating, but he really got under my skin with a recent tweet:

Think of the veterans!

Pappas is touting his vote against H.R.2811, the "Limit, Save, Grow Act of 2023". A summary from the Dispatch:

The House voted 217-215 Wednesday to pass a bill that would raise the debt ceiling by $1.5 trillion or through March 2024, cut discretionary spending to 2022 levels and add a 1 percent yearly growth cap, claw back unspent COVID-19 aid, and block President Joe Biden’s student debt relief plan, among other measures. The bill won’t pass the Democratic-controlled Senate—and Biden has vowed to veto the act if it did—but its passage was a victory for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who has struggled to unite his fractious conference and goad Biden to the negotiating table.

Every Democrat voted against it. I wouldn't get irritated by Pappas (yet again) demonstrating his fecklessness and subservience; it's par for the course. But I went down that rabbit hole a bit by clicking on that press release he offered.

The word "veteran" shows up 13 times in that short release. Please, Congressman. All you need to provide is a simple syllogism:

All Democrats voted against this.
I am a Democrat.
Therefore, I voted against this.

We don't need the "Gee, I woulda voted for it, except veterans" bullshit.

But this stuck out at the tail end:

Pappas is a member of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, which last week proposed a framework to avoid defaulting on the national debt and advancing a sustainable budget.

Problem Solvers Caucus! Dedicated to solving problems! Who could be against that? Why aren't all CongressCritters members of the Problem Solvers Caucus? Then all our problems would be solved!

Ahem. So following that link takes you to another press release: Problem Solvers Caucus Endorses Bipartisan Debt Ceiling Framework. It's bipartisan! Another good word!

But the press release is light on details, instead urging the reader:

The full framework can be reviewed here.

Background guidance on the debt ceiling framework can be found here.

Sigh. OK. No doubt following those links will finally reveal a complete list of concrete proposals to put the country on a path to a "sustainable budget". A solution from the Problem Solvers! Just click, and all will be…

Nope. It's not a solution. It's a framework.

The first link: a one-page Microsoft Word document.

The second link: a different one-page Microsoft Word document.

A summary of the framework: suspend the debt limit; set up a commission; task that commision with producing a report; that report must recommend a package; Congress must vote up-or-down on that package.

And that vote must happen by February 28, 2025.


Perhaps the "Problem Solvers Caucus" should change their name to the "Kicking the Can Down the Road Caucus" Maybe the "Evading Responsibility Caucus". Or "Avoiding Doing Anything Until the 2024 Elections Are Safely Past Caucus".

Constitution 101: Despite the "framework", our current Congress can't require the next Congress to do anything whatsoever. (See this 13-year-old Slate article.) They're perfectly free to evade taking possibly unpopular votes, and it's safe to assume they'll do just that.

No surprises, I guess. The voters of my district should have seen this coming.

Briefly noted:

  • Can you stand more about the debt ceiling debate? Sure you can. Veronique de Rugy provides: What You Need to Know About the Debt-Ceiling Debate.

    If you read news coverage about the brewing battle over raising the debt ceiling, you might think it's a fight between demons and angels. On one side, you have Republicans who are willing to risk a default on the government's debt unless they get spending cuts that will starve people. On the other side, you have Democrats who, guarding the interests of ordinary Americans, want a "clean" increase in the debt ceiling with no cuts in spending.

    None of this is accurate. The concessions sought by Republicans are relatively small compared to what needs to be done. In fact, the truly problematic position is the one that blindly insists that we shouldn't cut spending or worry about government debt.

    Does the debt ceiling supply the right moment to seek commitments to cut spending? I think so, if only because this year's negotiation might offer a rare window of opportunity that usually only happens during a financial crisis, something nobody wants. Republicans might do a bit more than merely pay lip service to fiscal responsibility and force Democrats to consider spending cuts. Yet, let's face it: These negotiations were never going to produce any kind of meaningful and broad fiscal reform.

    Vero is appropriately scornful of both parties in the debate,

  • You don't have to be crazy to be a kid. We'll train you. Noah Rothman reveals: Campaign to Make Kids into Neurotics.

    The results of a national poll released this week by the Institute of Politics at Harvard University’s Kennedy School confirms a growing suspicion that America’s young adults are rapidly dissolving into a bundle of nerves. Nearly half of all young Americans between the ages of 18 and 29, Institute of Politics director John Della Volpe told the hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, “are under this constant threat of fear.”

    A disturbingly high number of young adults reported experiencing existential dread just leaving the house — at the shopping mall, in school, or on campus, riding public transportation, or simply navigating their own neighborhoods. Thirty-six percent of young people fear they will be a victim of gun violence. Thirty-five percent worry about being caught up in a mass-shooting incident or becoming a victim of crime. Twenty-eight percent worry about their risk of sexual assault, and just under one quarter of this demographic fear the prospect of being targeted in a hate crime.

    Kids are fed a steady diet of fear: if the mass shooters don't get you, the sexual assaulters will. Or a pandemic. And if you avoid those icebergs… woops, there's always Greta Thunberg telling you about catastrophic climate change.

  • Show me where the meritocracy hurt you, child. Jerry Coyne and Anna Krylov take to the WSJ to gripe about The ‘Hurtful’ Idea of Scientific Merit.

    Until a few months ago, we’d never heard of the Journal of Controversial Ideas, a peer-reviewed publication whose aim is to promote “free inquiry on controversial topics.” Our research typically didn’t fit that description. We finally learned of the journal’s existence, however, when we tried to publish a commentary about how modern science is being compromised by a de-emphasis on merit. Apparently, what was once anodyne and unobjectionable is now contentious and outré, even in the hard sciences.

    Merit isn’t much in vogue anywhere these days. We’ve seen this in the trend among scientists to judge scientific research by its adherence to dominant progressive orthodoxies and in the growing reluctance of our institutions to hire and fund scientists based on their ability to propose and conduct exciting projects. Our intent was to defend established and effective practices of judging science based on its merit alone.

    It's not as if they're some right-wing cranks typing from their basement. (Um, like me.) Coyne is at the University of Chicago, Krylov is in chemistry at USC.

  • Debunking a gun controller lie. Earlier this month, I fisked an op-ed from the Chair of the Portsmouth (NH) Police Commission, Stefany Shaheen. One of her claims:


    Yes, uppercase screaming. I did a little pushback then, but here's David Harsanyi with a fuller response: No, Gun Violence Isn't The Leading Cause Of Death Among Children.

    Gun violence is the number one cause of death of children in America. Virtually every media outlet and Democrat repeats this contention — including, recently, the vice president. The claim is meant to conjure up distressing images of frolicking kids in parks and schools being gunned down by assault weapons.

    And horrific events certainly happen in the country. We need not gloss over the evil of mass school shootings, even if they’re rarer than gun-control types would have you believe. But that does not give people license to make things up.

    We don’t really know which study Harris based her comments on, if any. And different sources come to different conclusions. None of them, however, are grounded in our familiar understanding of “children.” These studies count adults who are 18 and 19, and sometimes up to 25, years of age. Americans under 18 can’t purchase guns legally. That age seems, at the very least, the most obvious divide between adults and children. Because when you take 18- and 19-year-old adults out of the equation, the number of gun-related deaths among kids plummets considerably.

    And more at the link, of course.

Last Modified 2023-05-31 4:57 AM EDT

What in the World… Oh, I Get It.

A recent xkcd:

[Definition of e]

Mouseover: "Yeah, my math teacher back in high school set up the system to try to teach us something or other, but the 100% rate was unbelievably good, so I engineered a hostile takeover of his bank and now use it to make extra cash on the side."

Need some help? See the first formula in the "History" section of the relevant Wikipedia page.

Briefly noted:

  • Especially not "Minnesota nice". George F. Will exposes legalized theft in Hennepin County: The county seized her condo, sold it and kept all the money. Not nice..

    Minnesota nice,” the stereotype of the Upper Midwest’s congeniality, needs an asterisk denoting an exception. The state’s amiability expires when grasping government wants to steal your house. Just ask Geraldine Tyler, 94, the Black grandmother whose lawyers will, in Wednesday’s oral arguments, ask the Supreme Court to remind Minnesota of Magna Carta, and of the Constitution’s takings clause and the excessive fines clause. Both provisions, it would be nice for Minnesota to acknowledge, are in the Bill of Rights.

    Minnesota governments began doing this under a Depression-era (1936) delinquent-property-tax-forfeiture statute enacted when governments were, even more than usual, ravenous for revenue. As Tyler’s lawyers note, between 2014 and 2021 at least 1,350 Minnesotans lost their homes and equity averaging $155,000 per home. This is many times the average tax liability. Nebraska took a $1 million farm after a widow missed an $8,276 tax bill when she was moved to a retirement home. Such predatory forfeiture is done by a dozen states and the District of Columbia, which took a $200,000 home from a man with dementia and a $133 tax debt. (Michigan has mostly mended its ways since a county pocketed $24,500 from the sale of an octogenarian’s home seized because of his $8.41 tax underpayment, and a court frowned on government’s unbounded power to confiscate.)

    For more information, see Frédéric Bastiat's theory of plunder (1850).

  • Is everything gonna be OK? I seem to be getting more cynical and pessimistic as the years pass. But I'm willing to hear out the debate at Reason. Katherine Mangu-Ward thinks we should Be Optimistic About the World.

    Let's stipulate that politics—domestically and globally—are legitimate cause for pessimism among those concerned about the rise of populist authoritarianism and the decline of liberalism and pluralism. To worry about politics isn't irrational; there have been times in human history when the political outpaced and swallowed the personal, private, and commercial.

    Now is not one of those times. The world outside of politics continues to get bigger, richer, and more interesting every day. We are all swimming in the primordial soup of the Great Enrichment; more than 200 years of spectacular increases in wealth, health, education, mobility, and choice that extends around the globe. In 1820, 84 percent of people lived in extreme poverty; today that number is 8 percent. In 1820, 90 percent of the world's population was illiterate; now it's 10 percent.

    KMW gives C.J. Ciaramella equal time for the pessimism side.

  • Let's give Tony some points for chutzpah. Eric Boehm seems to be shaking his head in disbelief: Fauci Says Don't Blame Him for COVID Lockdowns and School Closures.

    If you're looking for someone to blame for the infamous "15 days to slow the spread" that turned into more than a year of shuttered schools, closed businesses, and fraying social connections, Anthony Fauci says don't look at him.

    "Show me a school that I shut down and show me a factory that I shut down," says Fauci, the former White House coronavirus czar and now-retired public health official who became the face of both the Trump and Biden administrations' handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, in a lengthy sit-down with The New York Times. "Never. I never did."

    The interview is framed by the Times as an inside look at Fauci as he "wrestles with the hard lessons of the pandemic—and the decisions that will define his legacy." But when it comes time to answer the tough questions about who was at fault for America's botched response to COVID-19, the good doctor is happy to pass the buck. The blame is spread around, not only to the CDC and the other public health apparatuses for which Fauci became a convenient (and willing) personification but also to the politicians who followed public health recommendations without any consideration of the costs involved.

    Unfortunately for Tony, people are digging up his contemporaneous quotes, when he was happy to claim his influence over policy.

    Also, if you can stand it: see Randi Weingarten.

  • The word "social" in "social justice" should be taken to mean "not really". Jeff Jacoby lets fly at the latest government pickpocketing: Your credit score is excellent, so prepare to be penalized.

    YOU'VE ALWAYS dreamed of owning your own home. For years you've worked to make that dream a reality, putting part of each paycheck aside as you save up for a down payment. You know that to get a favorable mortgage rate you'll need to have a good credit score, so you've been scrupulous about paying your bills on time, never maxing out your credit cards, and sticking to a budget you can afford.

    Now, at last, you're ready to become a homeowner. Thanks to your excellent financial habits, your credit score is a solid 740. You've found the house of your dreams and applied for a mortgage loan. You've accumulated enough in savings to be able to make an extremely respectable down payment of 20 percent. Based on everything you've learned about mortgage borrowing, that should more than qualify you for the most favorable interest rate and fees available. Right?


    You've done everything you were supposed to do, so this may come as an unwelcome surprise: Because your credit rating is so good and your down payment is so high, the Biden administration has decided to penalize you with a hefty new fee and a higher mortgage rate. As of May 1, mortgage costs for home buyers with risky credit backgrounds will be reduced, resulting in more favorable interest rates. In order to subsidize that discount for less creditworthy borrowers, someone has to pay more. That someone is you and buyers like you — those with credit scores higher than 680 and down payments of 15 percent or more.

    JJ concludes: "You shouldn't be punished for having done the right thing, and no one who didn't should be getting a reward."

    But (as noted above) that's exactly what "social justice" is all about.

  • Car owners behaving badly? Say it ain't so! Henry Grabar notes Yet Another Menace: Fake license plates are on the rise..

    It’s a problem from Manhattan to the Rio Grande, as cheap paper license plates proliferate on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. The rise in camera-generated tolling and ticketing and a pullback in traffic policing have combined to create some very strong incentives to opt out of America’s century-old system of traffic control.

    This fraud unfolds against the backdrop of a roadway safety crisis. More pedestrians are being killed than at any point in the past 40 years; for motorists, the per-mile fatality rate has gone up more than 20 percent just since 2019. This has happened while our peer nations have all made enormous strides in reducing roadway deaths; the U.S. is going in the opposite direction. It’s hard to say if there’s a strong correlation between fake license plates and bad driving, though the former clearly abets the latter.

    Well, that's bad. I guess. But guess how I ran across this article?

    [Fake license plate] popularity seems to jibe with this new, live-free-or-die status quo on the road, a cynical exploitation of a unique moment in policing. The left has soured on traffic stops, recognizing their discriminatory qualities and tendency to lead to tragic police-citizen interactions. The right has blocked automated traffic policing in many statehouses, because freedom. The police are wary of both cameras and enforcement.

    Yup, my trusty LFOD Google News alert. Is there anything Slate writers can't blame on pernicious creeping libertarianism?

Radical Uncertainty

Decision-Making Beyond the Numbers

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

This book explores the thorny nature of uncertainty, considering the related topics of risk, probability, predictability, etc.. The authors concentrate on economics (John Kay is, among other things, an econ prof at Oxford; Mervyn King was the Governor of the Bank of England) but their discussion is very wide-ranging, slopping over to other areas where our knowledge is less than perfectly complete. Which is, pretty much, everywhere.

Their discussion of probability is a fine example of how weird the concept can get. Physics folks know that (for example) an atom of carbon-14 will undergo beta decay sometime in the next 5700 years with probability 50%. And we've all heard about Schrödinger's kitty. But once you get beyond that, things get hairy. We also think of a coin-flip coming up heads as having probability ½; but that's only because we don't pay very much attention to the details of the coin's trajectory, which is (after all) deterministic, with no quantum funny business involved.

Things get a lot more fuzzy when we look at betting odds. As I type, the FiveThirtyEight website tells me the Boston Celtics have a 28% chance of winning the NBA finals; the Election Betting Odds nails down a 37.1% probability that Joe Biden will win the 2024 presidential election. What's that mean?

And finally, the discussion preceding Obama's 2011 decision to send the SEALs into Abbottabad to get Osama bin Laden is examined. One CIA advisor put the probability that Osama was present in the compound at 95%. "But others were less sure. Most placed their probability estimate at about 80%. Some were as low as 40% or even 30%."

If that sort of quantification strikes you as absurd, good. It gets stranger:

The President summed up the discussion. 'This is 50-50. Look guys, this is a flip of the coin. I can't base this decision on the notion that we have any greater certainty than that.' Obama did not mean that the probability that the man in the compound was bin Laden was 0.5; still less that he planned to decide by flipping a coin. His summary recognized that he had to make his decision without knowing whether the terrorist leader was in the compound or not. Obama would reflect on that discussion in a subsequent interview: 'In this situation, what you started getting was probabilities that disguised uncertainty as opposed to actually providing you with more useful information.

That gets pretty far afield from our Carbon-14 atom. Kay and King do a fine philosophical job of teasing out distinctions and confusions in the language surrounding uncertainty.

I winced a bit at the authors' mangled history of the early personal computer market (page 29), which implies that Apple's desktop GUI was present from the company's origin. But in other spots, Kay and King can get downright hilarious (in a staid British manner) in describing the efforts of firms and regulators as they try to quantify the unquantifiable. Their advice on how (better) to handle situations where you just don't know the inherently unknowable is (probably) good.

Last Modified 2024-01-13 1:01 PM EDT

Fight Big Cow!

Via Reason Roundup, a pretty funny advocacy ad, featuring the bewitching Aubrey Plaza:


Aubrey Plaza is the latest soldier in the ongoing labeling wars over alt milks. The actress stars in a new satirical ad campaign in which she encourages people to buy disgusting (fictional) "wood milk" instead of the standard dairy variety. At least, that is, until she tastes it.

"Is wood milk real? Absolutely not. Only real milk is real," she says.

The ad, funded by milk processors, is a clear swipe at milks made from almonds, soy, and oats. While funny, it's also part of a broader regulatory campaign by the dairy industry to prevent alternative milk makers from using the word milk on their packaging. The Food and Drug Administration issued new rules in February allowing these non-dairy milk producers to use the word milk while also encouraging them to include nutritional comparisons between their products and the dairy variety.

I suppose I have to come down on one side or another? Please imagine I have some boilerplate here about a politically powerful industry waging war against competitors by enlisting the iron fist of regulatory agencies.

Still: funny ad.

Briefly noted:

  • And it's gonna be awesome. Kevin D. Williamson is gloomy about the prospects of the citizens of the richest countries on earth freezing to death in the dark: Winter Is Coming.

    Europe dodged a bullet this past winter, as a combination of factors—unusually mild weather (thanks, global warming!), reasonably nimble policy realism, and shiploads of liquified natural gas from the United States—went a long way toward counteracting the effects of Vladimir Putin’s energy war on Ukraine’s allies in the European Union. Only a few months ago, European governments from France to Finland were warning their citizens about the possibility of rolling winter blackouts. In Germany—home to what is arguably the world’s most technologically advanced manufacturing economy—people worried about blackouts sent candle sales soaring, while public-broadcasting stations spent months warning their listeners against building makeshift ovens to heat their homes.

    The specter of the people of Germany—makers of Leica cameras and Siemens locomotives—shivering in the dark was scandalous even if averted. It was and is a scandal because the reliance of Germany on Russian gas exports was neither accidental nor inevitable. Neither was the vulnerability of the energy markets in much of the rest of Europe. The winter of 2022-23 has passed, but European energy vulnerability remains a problem, and it is a problem that was made not in Moscow but in Brussels and in European capitals from Amsterdam to Zagreb.

    KDW makes a point about the mindset of the folks in charge:

    As I observed at the U. N. climate conference in Glasgow, European policymakers and intellectual leaders are in thrall to a phenomenon that is somewhere between a fad and a religious revival—consulting spiritual gurus, conducting indigenous rituals, and speaking in reverential tones about “net zero.” This is not strictly related to the question of how serious a challenge you believe climate change to be: I myself believe that climate change is a serious threat, and, more consequentially, so do the people at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Net zero calls for a prelapsarian state in which “all GHG emissions”—that’s “greenhouse-gas” emissions—“released by human activities are counterbalanced by removing GHGs from the atmosphere,” as the World Resources Institute puts it. That net zero should be our shared goal is taken as something like an article of faith—but why? The IPCC estimates that a reduction in GHG emissions somewhere between 43 percent and 45 percent is needed to keep global warming to about 1.5°C, the stated goal of the Paris Agreement. That would be a very big deal, indeed, but nothing like what it would take to achieve net zero—and it is the absolutism and finality of that zero that demonstrates that you are dealing with ideology run amok or a quasi-mystical mania rather than responsible policymaking.

    Gimme that old-time religion. The one where you actually attend a church, instead of jetting into a "climate conference in Glasgow".

  • Mystery solved. Wilfred Reilly explores Why Woke Companies Deliberately Alienate Their Consumers. After noting the recent example of Anheuser-Busch wiping "$5-6 Billion" off its market capitalization…

    [Amazon Link]
    (paid link)

    As is so often the case, the great Thomas Sowell provides a murky path with some illumination. In an entertaining and now-classic book, The Vision of the Anointed, Sowell makes the point that many members of the Western ruling class — including professors, media figures, politicians, and senior business executives — no longer like or understand the people that they are expected to lead. Almost universally, such would-be lairds are upper-middle or upper class in background, from the two coasts or at least one of the megacities around the Great Lakes, educated at elite Ivy-on-down universities, and well-versed in trendy social theory (“My preferred pronouns are . . .”).

    Sowell claims, using a great deal of empirical data, that these folx tend to think of other Americans not as peers and countrymen so much as “the benighted” — and other more modern synonyms come easily to mind: “deplorables,” “bitter clingers” from “flyover land.” In Anointed/Benighted discourse, the goal of the Anointed isn’t an honest exchange of views so much as teaching the Benighted what the new truth is: changing and broadening their provincial little minds. It’s hard not to see a great deal of this dynamic specifically in the Dylan Mulvaney case — the executive responsible for that hire was the first female SVP ever to run the Bud Light brand, and she brutally condemned it as “fratty” and in need of some seasoning in a now-viral podcast interview.

    Sowell's book available at Amazon via link to your right.

  • Like "social" in "social justice"… the modifier "common good" in "common good capitalism" should be understood to mean "not really". Donald J. Boudreaux describes Some Factual and Economic Errors of “Common Good Capitalism”.

    If all that “common good capitalism” means is capitalism as understood and championed over the past 250 years by liberal scholars such as Adam Smith and Frédéric Bastiat through F.A. Hayek, Milton Friedman, and, today, Thomas Sowell and Deirdre McCloskey, then giving it this new name serves no good purpose. This new appellation only confuses, as it suggests that (what I’ll call) “true capitalism” not only doesn’t promote the common good, but also is believed by its champions not to do so. Yet the scholars named here, along with other advocates of true capitalism (including me), do indeed believe that true capitalism promotes the common good. And to back our case, we’ve got lots of sound theory and solid evidence.

    Of course, “common good capitalism” does differ, categorically, from true capitalism. For starters — and the subject of this column — arguments for “common good capitalism” are chock-a-block both with factual errors and faulty economic reasoning of a sort not found in arguments for true capitalism. Second — and the subject of my next column — unlike true capitalism, “common good capitalism” is rooted in a rejection of liberalism. But true capitalism and liberalism are inseparable from each other. Capitalism can no more be divorced from liberalism than Judaism or Christianity can be divorced from belief in God, or than science can be divorced from an openness to the discovery of new knowledge.

    Professor Boudreaux details the "factual errors and faulty economic reasoning" in what follows. Convincingly.

  • It's a good gig. I'm pretty sure I've never, ever, watched Tucker Carlson. But Jeff Maurer notes an opportunity for aspiring actors: The Tucker Carlson Role Just Opened Up.

    Actor Winston Beefo has announced that he will no longer portray his beloved “Tucker Carlson” character, effective immediately. Beefo had portrayed Carlson across three decades, with the character evolving from a button-down conservative to a race-baiting populist in the mold of Archie Bunker. Fox News did not immediately announce plans to recast the role, though the blockbuster ratings for Perpetual Outrage Tonight with Tucker Carlson — consistently the highest-rated show on cable news — suggest that Fox will be hesitant to abandon the character.

    We need someone who can summon the spirit of Peter Finch playing Howard Beale on Network. A movie that's nearly half a century old, by the way.

Last Modified 2024-01-13 1:00 PM EDT

The Worlds of Robert A. Heinlein

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Continuing my "Reread Heinlein" project. This is pretty minor, "for completists only": a collection of six works that didn't appear elsewhere. A 40¢ Ace paperback I picked up back in the mid-1960s. As I type, I notice someone's trying to get US $8.70 for their used copy on AbeBooks. E-mail me, I'll fix you up for slightly cheaper than that.

But if you find a copy of Expanded Universe, I think all the stories here are also there.

So these are mostly of historical interest:

"Pandora's Box" — an essay originally written for Galaxy magazine, appearing in 1952, about the world of the far future: 2000 AD. With an addendum RAH wrote for this volume. (Mid 1960s, remember.) Anyone wishing to write down their forecasts 50 years into the future would do well to read this, and see how badly some predictions can go embarassingly wrong. (He thought we'd all be cool with casual nudity in 2000. Unless I'm missing something, we weren't then, and aren't now.)

"Free Men" — a tale of Occupied America, kind of like Red Dawn, except with middle aged men instead of high school students. Faced with a comrade who wants out. Things do not go well.

"Blowups Happen" — imagine a single nuclear power plant, just barely stable, the slightest malfunction can send the entire planet into radioactive flinders. The operators invariably go crazy from the stress. What to do? Could a technical fix be found just in time?

"Searchlight" — Heinlein's last short story, so it says. A blind child musician's rocket crashes on the Moon! Can an ingenious method be devised to save her just in time?

"Life-Line" — the insufferable Hugo Pinero invents a gadget that can predict, infallibly, the date and time of anyone's death. Heinlein's first published short story. It doesn't end well for Hugo, but you can't say he didn't see it coming.

"Solution Unsatisfactory" — a pretty grim tale from 1941, imagining that WWII would be ended with the ultimate WMD: not the bomb, but radioactive "dust" that can quickly be spread over enemy population centers, killing anyone there, and rendering the area uninhabitable. The war ends when the "good guys" spread it over Berlin. But proliferation quickly becomes an issue, and the "solution" to that problem is, indeed unsatisfactory. Never thought I'd be grateful that we wound up with nuclear weaponry instead.

Last Modified 2024-01-13 1:00 PM EDT

Freely Determined

What the New Psychology of the Self Teaches Us About How to Live

[Amazon Link]
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Putting my cards on the table: I'm a believer in what the philosophers call "libertarian" free will. And I use the term "believer" because (sigh) I don't have any solid knock-down evidence to throw up against the (so-called) "determinists".

Other than to say: "Hey, if you don't believe in free will, that's OK; that's your choice." And then walk away chuckling at this very cheap shot.

Bur I like to read on both sides of the issue, so when I noticed this book on the new nonfiction table at Portsmouth Public Library, I picked it up. It's by Ken Sheldon, psychology professor at the University of Missouri. It contains an interesting mix: there's a pro-free will argument, but—see the subtitle—there's also a strong component of self-help advice.

I used to think that belief in determinism was essentially one that had no effect on one's daily life. No matter how solid that belief, you still have to make decisions, from mundane ones (what shirt to wear, how much cream cheese to put on that bagel, …) to the life-altering ones (which career path to pursue, who/whether to marry, …). And (I thought) determinists pretty much go through the same mental processes that I do when making decisions. There's no avoiding it, is there? Net result is the same.

But Sheldon cites research that indicates otherwise: free will believers tend to be happier and healthier. (And more honest: one study had participants read a pro-determinism article, then take a math skills test. They were more likely to cheat on that test than the control group.) So even if free will doesn't exist, pilgrim, you're better off believing in it anyway.

Sheldon locates the seat of free will in the "symbolic self": "our sense of ourselves as self-aware agents living a story, playing our roles in the world, and deciding what to do and say next." He locates the symbolic self as an emergent property of human neurophysiology. Somewhat like "life" is an emergent property of plain old unliving molecules arranged into cells, organs, …. And (similar) human society and culture is an energent property of individual human interactions, its behavior unpredictable from knowledge of individuals.

And (to me) that makes sense. His strongest argument (I think) is what he calls "the grand hierarchy of human reality", which has causal arrows working both ways, up and down. (There's a nice diagram on page 45, which I'm too lazy to scan in. Trust me.)

A side discussion of interest, getting more relevant every day: what about AI? Could they exhibit free will? Sheldon says sure, why not. And speculates from there. Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation is referenced.

As mentioned, there's a strong component of self-help in the book, as indicated by the "how to live" in the subtitle. I admit I found that ("at my age") less interesting; Ken, if I haven't figured out "how to live" by now, it's unlikely to happen at all, sorry.

Last Modified 2024-01-13 1:00 PM EDT


The Strange Theory of Light and Matter

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I was a physics major in college (I suppose I need to keep repeating that for newcomers), but I fell off that holy path a few years later, finding myself more interested in playing with computers than I was in pursuing actual research. But I still enjoy reading "popular" science books every now and again, and this is one of the best: Richard Feynman's four-lecture series on quantum electrodynamics, QED. He won the Nobel (with Julian Schwinger and Shin’ichirō Tomonaga) for his work in this field, so this book is as definitive as it gets.

QED sounds as if it might be obscure, but it's really all about … well, everything: the interplay of photons with matter. Which, for one big example, holds atoms together. (Where would we be without that? Nowhere, that's where.)

Feynman's lecturing style is wonderfully down-to-earth and colorful, with flashes of wry humor. There are videos out there. If that's your thing, check them out. He prefers pictures to math; eponymous "Feynman diagrams" eventually make their appearance, although I don't think he ever calls them that.

At one point he talks about multiplying amplitudes, represented by arrows: this involves (he says) a "shrink" (you multiply the lengths of the arrows, and they're less than one) and a "twist" (adding one arrow's angle to the other's).

And it took me (sadly) more than a few minutes to remember those old math and physics courses, and realize he's just multiplying two complex numbers represented in polar notation.

Feynman draws insightful lessons from something as simple as light reflecting off a glass plate. (Or an thin film of oil on water: see the cover.) He avoids the "easy" explanation of interfering light waves, noting you get the same effects if you crank the intensity of the light way down—this is quantum electrodynamics, after all—and only send one photon at a time. Somehow, that shiny little ball interferes with itself!

Well, see the subtitle: it's a strange theory. Here's what he tells his (civilian) audience in the first lecture:

What I am going to tell you about is what we teach our physics students in the third or fourth year of graduate school—and you think I'm going to explain it to you so you can understand it? No, you're not going to be able to understand it. Why, then, and I going to bother you with all this? Why are you going to sit here all this time, when you won't be able to understand what I'm going to say? It is my task to convince you not to turn away because you don't understand it. You see, my physics students don't understand it either. That is because I don't understand it. Nobody does.

So don't worry about making sense out of QED; Feynman's describing the way it works, not why it works that way. Nobody knows why it works that "absurd" way, and you'll just make your head hurt thinking about it. As he says, it's absurd, but he finds it "delightful", and maybe you will too.

I got an older edition of this book from the UNH Physics Library, in it, Feynman mentions that the mass of the neutrino is zero. I don't know if that's been corrected in newer editions. Get the latest one you can find.

Last Modified 2024-01-13 1:00 PM EDT

Scott Meyer Kinda Got Me

[Except for the middle-aged adjective]

Except for the "middle-aged" adjective. I'm pretty sure I can't pull that off any more.

And I only watched the episodes once.

Well, sometimes twice, if I fell asleep during the first viewing.

(That's panel one of Meyer's latest cartoon. If you recognized yourself there, you'll want to click over for the rest.)

Briefly noted:

  • Good advice J.D. Tucccille has some: If You Want Fewer Shootings, Ask Politicians To Back Off.

    Headlines feature grim reports of senseless violence, including the wounding of Ralph Yarl in Kansas City, Missouri, the killing of Kaylin Gillis in Hebron, New York, and shootings of Payton Washington and Heather Roth in Elgin, Texas, and of 6-year-old Kinsley White and her parents in Gaston County, North Carolina. We'll learn more in days to come, but the incidents seem the results of irrational fear and rage.

    These incidents feed the usual debates, with "reformers" promoting gun restrictions or criticizing "stand your ground" self-defense laws. But while the impulse to do something is understandable, these eruptions of violence come after decades of plummeting crime that coincided with increasing firearms ownership and eased laws. Something changed: us. Boosted by bad pandemic policies, already agitated Americans became nuttier and more prone to conflict. Politicians and laws can't fix that.

    "In an era of frequent mass shootings, Americans know all too well that tragedy lurks nearly everywhere: schools, churches, offices, grocery stores, movie theaters. But these three incidents in the span of just six days have deepened a gnawing sense that no place is truly safe," NBC News's Daniel Arkin reported this week. "The incidents have renewed and intensified calls for stricter gun control legislation" and "have also put scrutiny on 'stand your ground' self-defense laws."

    Tucccille notes that none of the incidents could conceivably been prevented if only we hadn't passed those pesky "stand your ground" laws.

    And he makes a compelling argument for what he sees as a major culprit: a pandemic policy that sent a bunch of marginal whack jobs totally off the rails.

    His bottom line is sobering, and won't be accepted by those looking for panaceas via new laws, controls, and regulations: "It took years to break our society; we'll be a long time making repairs."

  • Hey, kids, what time is it? At FEE, Cruz Marquis answers: It’s Time to Separate School and State.

    The state-run school system as it stands is a one-size-fits-all monstrosity which crowds out private alternatives and spreads socialistic and anti-Christian propaganda. It’s time to think bigger than Friedman’s school vouchers, it’s time to separate school from state.

    Cruz harps on the "anti-Christian" point a little too strongly for me, but that's not to say he's wrong. To (doubtless) repeat myself: we should erect a "wall of separation" between school and state. Similar to the one between church and state, and for the same reasons.

  • A somewhat less radical step is advocated by Robert S. Eitel and Jim Blew: A Plan to Close the Federal Department of Education.

    Cries to shutter the U.S. Department of Education have grown louder and more constant as the 2024 presidential race heats up. Announced and potential candidates are already on message: The department has devolved into a lobbying platform for a continuously more expensive and expansive federal role in support of a heavily unionized education system, with tragic results for the nation and its students.

    One difficulty in closing the Education Department is that the agency has become ingrained in the minds of policy-makers and the law. For more than 40 years, Congress has willingly assigned most K–12 and postsecondary funding and rulemaking initiatives to the department. With an $83 billion budget, a $1.6 trillion student-loan portfolio, 4,400 employees, and thousands of contractors, there is a lot to unravel, and it won’t happen overnight.

    But it is worth the effort to begin the unraveling. The department has grown into a multibillion-dollar regulatory behemoth that public-school unions, the higher-education lobby, far-left civil-rights groups, and their elected allies manipulate for their own purposes. The self-interests of these groups don’t align with the interests of students or taxpayers.

    It's a worthy goal. Probably won't happen.

  • Good question. And John Hinderaker asks it: Where Is That Manifesto?.

    On March 27, nearly a month ago, Audrey Hale murdered six people in a Nashville school before herself being killed by police. Like substantially all mass murderers, Hale was deeply troubled. Among other things, shortly before her rampage she decided that she was, or wanted to be, a man. Her murders came immediately before a national “Trans Day of Vengeance” that was promoted with violent imagery. And the trans movement has, in general, been radical and frequently violent.

    After Hale’s death, Nashville authorities announced that she had left behind a number of writings including a “manifesto.” It is reasonable to assume that these writings would shed some light on her motivations. I wrote here about Hale’s manifesto and the reasons why it is likely to be of public interest, notwithstanding the fact that the ravings of mass murderers should normally be given little attention.

    Hinderaker speculates the reason for keeping the "manifesto" under wraps is that it might illuminate things the "trans community" might not want illuminated. The "Democracy dies in darkness" Washington Post has yet to weigh in on the issue, but I suspect that motto only works one way.

Last Modified 2024-01-30 6:11 AM EDT

The Phony Campaign

2023-04-23 Update

[Amazon Link]
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In our own phony standings:

  • Gavin Newsom has dropped below our 2% inclusion criterion; the election punters apparently sobered up and dropped him down to a mere 1.8% probability of occupying the Oval Office come 2025. Bye, Gavin, at least for now.
  • A new and welcome appearance to the EBO table is Vivek Ramaswamy; he's showing up with a 1.4% of taking the big prize. Which isn't great, but it's slightly better than (sob!) my girl, Nikki Haley.
  • And it's way better than Governor Chris Sununu, who continues to not appear at EBO at all.
  • And Governor Ron continues to wipe the phony floor against other contenders. More hits than the other candidates combined! Over a 6-to-1 advantage over his nearest competitor Donald Trump!

In detail:

Candidate EBO Win
Hit Count
Ron DeSantis 13.6% -3.5% 9,210,000 -1,290,000
Donald Trump 26.9% +0.3% 1,530,000 +210,000
Joe Biden 36.4% +2.3% 449,000 -95,000
Kamala Harris 2.4% -0.5% 143,000 +39,000
Other 20.7% +4.4% --- ---

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

  • It's my blog, and I'll write about Nikki even though she seems to be fading. She still draws slings and arrows from social media assholes and journalists, for some reason, think that's news: Nikki Haley ripped for off-white dress at daughter's wedding.

    Most comments offered congratulations to Haley and her growing family.

    Still, other posters were sharply critical of the off-white dress worn by the former South Carolina governor and US ambassador to the UN in the Trump administration.

    “Did the mother of the bride wear WHITE,” gasped one Twitter user.

    “Ummmm why the hell are you wearing an almost white dress that easily could have been a wedding dress???” another user scolded. “That was very selfish of you to try to steal her spotlight but given how much you want all the attention on you, it doesn’t surprise me..”

    Who's worse: (a) twitter trolls; (b) Patrick Reilly, who wrote the New York Post article; (c) the editors who thought it would be something their readers needed to know?

  • Noah Rothman notes the latest Trumpian video salvo against Governor Ron: Slinging Pudding and Evading Responsibility.

    The advertisement vaults off the mid-March revelation that DeSantis was once compelled for want of utensils on a private flight between Washington, D.C., and Tallahassee to tuck into a cup of chocolate pudding using three fingers — a detail that became late-night comedy fodder for the better part of a week. The anti-DeSantis spot produced by Make America Great Again Inc. features a faceless actor shoveling pudding into his face, with varying degrees of success, in such a way as to make even those with the most robust constitutions feel a little woozy.

    At the risk of overanalyzing the ad’s aesthetics, one could say that if Republican voters subconsciously internalize an association between DeSantis and nausea, this might one day be regarded as an effective campaign ad.

    That assumes, however, that these voters do not critically listen to the substance of the ad. The MAGA Inc. spot does not dwell on DeSantis’s allegedly unrefined table manners but rather on the fact that the longtime Republican lawmaker once evinced support for longtime Republican positions: specifically, the urgent and undeniable national imperative for reforming America’s unfunded entitlement programs before they collapse.

    I can't quite believe that Trump's position is "Let's continue to ignore this obvious, well-documented, imminent fiscal disaster." But apparently it is.

  • [Amazon Link]
    (paid link)
    Philip Greenspun, brave soul, is actually reading Governor Ron's campaign book (link at your right). Here he concentrates on Ron DeSantis and Coronapanic. There are long excerpts from the book and a review of 2020 history (2020 hindsight?). Here's DeSantis:

    Florida stood out because other large states like California and New York dutifully bowed to the biomedical security state. I was not going to allow our state to descend into a Faucian dystopia in which people’s freedoms were curtailed and their livelihoods destroyed. Florida protected individual freedom, economic opportunity, and access to education—and our state is much better for it.

    As the iron curtain of Faucism descended across our continent, the State of Florida stood resolutely in the way.


    Inspiring words, perhaps, but inspiring for whom? Maybe for the folks who chose to relocate to Florida so that their kids could go to school. Maybe for Anders Tegnell. But if we assume that state governors do what state voters want, the vast majority of Americans wanted to be locked down and wanted to be ordered to wear masks and get injected with an experimental medicine. I don’t see how this chapter helps Ron DeSantis win a general election in a country whose residents would have cowered in place for 5 years if Fauci had told them to keep cowering.

    Phil's kind of a pessimistic grump. Doesn't make him wrong, though.

  • Jim Geraghty wrote last Tuesday on The White House Retirement Home.

    Yesterday I noticed that the White House called a lid — that is, announced there would be no public events with the president — shortly after 9 a.m. Eastern.

    Today the president received his daily intelligence briefing at 11 a.m., and he will deliver remarks on actions to help families access care, support care workers and family caregivers, and strengthen the economy at 2 p.m.

    No doubt that leisurely start to the week is a consequence of President Biden’s trip to Ireland. Biden left the White House for his Ireland trip at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday and remained in Ireland until Friday evening. Upon returning to the U.S. early Saturday morning, Biden spent the weekend at his Rehoboth Beach house, and returned to the White House Sunday evening.


    This is just part of life with an 80-year-old president; after an overseas trip, he’ll need two or three days to recover from jet lag. It is hard to imagine Biden will be in better shape, or more energetic, a year from now when he’s running for reelection as an 81-year-old, or, if victorious, taking the oath of office again at age 82. And yet, the Democratic Party’s plan is for Biden to remain in office until he is age 86.

    I'm relatively sure that if the current president were a Republican of the same age, given to the same schedule and speech flubs, it would be a common story on the network news and the late night talk shows. But… we can only imagine.

  • Andrew C. McCarthy is unsurprised to find The Obama-Era Hatchet Man at the Center of Biden’s 2020 Campaign Deception.

    So how shocked, shocked should we be that, when the Biden campaign needed to call in a pro in the dark art of politicizing intelligence, it turned to none other than former CIA muckety-muck Michael Morell? You may remember him as the man behind the infamous Benghazi talking points . . . about which he has been just as honest as he is now in Deep State–splaining to us that his effort to help Joe Biden slough off Hunter’s scandalous laptop as Russian disinformation was not — really not, cross-his-heart — a scam to frame the laptop as Russian disinformation.

    As our Ari Blaff reports, Morell has fessed up to the House Judiciary Committee that, in the weeks just before the 2020 presidential election, he and his pal Antony Blinken (then a top Biden campaign adviser, now the secretary of state) cooked up the shameful letter signed by 51 partisan Democrats — I mean, er, scrupulously nonpartisan former intelligence and national-security officials. That letter, which branded the Hunter Biden laptop as Russian disinformation, is itself an exquisite piece of disinformation, based on exactly zero, zip, nada evidence, and trading exclusively on the credentials of the former officials.

    Took us about two and a half years to find out, thanks to our utterly incurious democracy-dies-in-darkness watchdog journalists. (I slagged the New York Post above, but they were about the only ones making noise about this at the time.)

Last Modified 2024-01-17 12:26 PM EDT

The Vanishing Point

[Amazon Link]
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A couple months back, I opened a book report with "Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be ballet dancers." This time, I'm going with "Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be photographers, either."

This book made the WSJ's Best Mysteries of 2021, and it finishes up my reading project for that list. (That list was a mixed bag. My previous reports: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.)

The book revolves around central characters Rye, Julian, and Magda; years back, they encountered each other at the prestigious Brodsky Workshop, a springboard for future famous shutterbugs. But as the book opens, two decades post-Brodsky, Julian is attending the memorial service for Rye, who's missing, presumed dead. So that's kind of a mystery, but not really, because nobody seems that interested in finding out what happened. We proceed to jump back in time to discover what brought us to that unhappy pass…

Each chapter is told via third-person limited point-of-view (I think it's called) describing some segment of some character's shambolic life. This is pretty good when the same scene is described from different POVs.

Pretty much everyone's miserable, smokes too much, drinks too much. (Or, in one case, much worse.) The prose is a little arty for my taste, the author eschews quotation marks, but some people, e.g. the WSJ reviewer, find it OK. And I thought things got a little too soap-operatic at the end. But that's me.

Last Modified 2024-01-13 12:59 PM EDT

You Know What Einstein Probably Didn't Say?

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Spectifically, he probably didn't say "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result." Jacob sullum sums up the latest example of that adage: Prohibition Gave Us Xylazine in Fentanyl. The Solution, Drug Warriors Say, Is More Prohibition.

The emergence of the animal tranquilizer xylazine as a fentanyl adulterant, like the emergence of fentanyl as a heroin booster and substitute, has prompted law enforcement officials to agitate for new legal restrictions and criminal penalties. That response is fundamentally misguided, because the threat it aims to address is a familiar consequence of prohibition, which creates a black market in which drug composition is highly variable and unpredictable. Instead of recognizing their complicity in maintaining and magnifying that hazard, drug warriors always think the answer is more of the same.

So how are our state's senior senator and the Biden Administration doing on the Einsteinian insanity scale?

And our junior senator?

Crack down! This time they're serious!

And my CongressCritter:

I didn't even have the heart to snark out responses.

Briefly noted:

  • Biden lies, can't spell. James Freeman notes the decrepitude and dishonesty when the Speller-in-Chief talks about Taxing Billionaires. A long excerpt:

    Social media users have been laughing about President Joe Biden failing to complete the spelling of the word “eight” at a speech in Maryland this week. But the context in which he made his typically confused remarks is even more concerning. And Mr. Biden is not the only Washington politician who seems incapable of speaking truthfully on the subject of taxes.

    Here’s how the official White House transcript recounts the relevant passage from the president’s speech Wednesday afternoon in Accokeek, Md., in which he created his usual grotesque straw man to depict opponents of larger government:

    Imagine trading off less food inspections so the wealthy can have a giant tax cut.

    Imagine denying poor and disabled Americans on Medicaid — Medicaid, not Medicare — the treatment they need for asthma and diabetes so the wealthiest Americans can keep cheating on their taxes.

    And, by the way, I’m not saying every American cheats on their taxes. But you have — we have a thousand billionaires in America. You know, the average tax rate they pay? Eight. E-I-G-H[-T] percent. Eight percent.

    Even on the occasions when he manages to spell the figure correctly, it is not even close to accurate, and this is no honest mistake. He’s repeatedly told this and similar falsehoods, though he doesn’t always take the additional step of smearing the most financially successful people in the country as tax cheats. In any case, the White House opted to continue the deceptions, following up on his Wednesday remarks with a tweet:

    And here 'tis:

    Freeman continues:

    The 8% figure is a fabricated number based on how much the rich would be paying today if the United States had an imaginary (and unconstitutional) federal tax system that plundered wealth, not just income.

    It's fun to make sport of Biden's goofs, but this is no goof, it's a lie. Even Politifact says so.

  • Blowups Happen. Jack Salmon notes the latest spanner tossed into the reactor core: Social Security Trustees Report Throws a Wrench into Budget Negotiations. It's a fresh take on more of the same:

    With the debt-ceiling deadline fast approaching, and policy-makers on both sides of the political aisle refusing to acknowledge the largest drivers of our ballooning federal deficits, the recent release of the Social Security trustees’ report throws another wrench into the works.

    The report finds that the Social Security Trust Fund will be depleted in 2033, one year earlier than last year’s estimate. This projection is in line with a CBO estimate from December, which found that “the balance in the trust funds will decline to zero in 2033 and the Social Security Administration will no longer be able to pay full benefits when they are due.”

    I assume by 2033, seniors like me will be "strongly encouraged" to go ice fishing in April.

Last Modified 2024-01-13 12:59 PM EDT

Never B♯. Never B♭. Always B♮.

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When the article's author is Kevin D. Williamson, and the article's headline is Five Words of Wisdom … attention must be paid.

If you have ever spent any time around one of the more demonstrative forms of Christianity, you may have noticed that it is very, very rare for someone to walk up the aisle and tearfully prostrate himself before the altar because his life is going so well. It’s the desperate times of life that more reliably bring us to our knees (or all the way down). Because politics has to a shocking extent supplanted the role of religion in American life—including in many institutions that think of themselves as Christian churches—one can see the same phenomenon at work in the political realm. Ecstatic politics requires a crisis; gratitude is not a powerful enough emotion—what is required is terror, or at least its 2 percent, half-caff version, anxiety

That is why we are engaged in all this preposterous talk about how poorly the U.S. economy is doing when the opposite is the case: The U.S. economy is a remarkable, stupendous, world-beating success story. We should take a second to appreciate that fact and how it came to be.

Now those five words of wisdom show up eventually, but no spoilers here. (Warning: one of them is unsuitable for … oh, heck, I've been hearing it in Season 3 Picard episodes, so who knows where it's unsuitable? Sunday Mass, maybe?)

And I'm not sure how likely it is that the USA will follow those words.

And today's headline is words of wisdom from Bobbi Jeanine, Lily Tomlin's Vegas airport lounge singer. (It's better with her organ accompaniment.)

Briefly noted:

  • Noah Rothman looks at one recent attempt to avoid taking KDW's words of wisdom: Mortgage Subsidizing: Democrats’ Atrocious Attack on Personal Responsibility. After a brief history lesson about the 2009 Obama mortgage bailouts…

    Once again, the administration is prepared to “subsidize the losers’ mortgages,” so to speak, and not in any effort to save the economy or help Americans avoid destitution. The Biden administration’s only goal is to purchase the loyalty of prospective homebuyers who are locked out of the property market by high real-estate prices and rising interest rates — rising interest rates necessitated, in part, by the administration’s reckless spending. And Americans who did everything right are going to suffer, perversely enough, because they did everything right.

    The administration is set to enforce a new rule that will compel potential homebuyers who spent their lives paying their bills on time and building good credit scores to pay more for their mortgages. Why? To subsidize the loans assumed by higher-risk borrowers. Beginning May 1, prospective homeowners with a credit rating of 680 or more “will pay, for example, about $40 per month more on a home loan of $400,000,” the Washington Times reported this week. “Homebuyers who make down payments of 15% to 20% will get socked with the largest fees.”

    Need more words of wisdom? We've used these before: "Look Around the Poker Table; If You Can’t See the Sucker, You’re It."

  • David Harsanyi takes a look at a different Atrocious Attack: Bill Lee's Red Flag Proposal Is An Unconstitutional Travesty.

    Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee is asking lawmakers to support “new legislation that would temporarily block someone who is deemed a threat to themselves or to others from having guns,” writes Axios.

    That’s one way of putting it.

    Another, more precise, way would be to say Lee supports a law that forces people accused of a precrime to sit down with state-appointed psychiatrists and lawyers and prove their innocence before the government decides if they can keep their guns. If that person says the wrong things, cops can show up at his home, search it, demand the accused hand over his property — not just any property, but property explicitly protected by the Constitution — without offering any evidence that he’s committed, or ever planned to commit, a crime.

    It's a "do something" response to last month's horrific Nashville murders. But, Harsanyi notes, "as far as we know, nothing in Lee’s proposal would have stopped that shooter."

  • George Will considers recent legal doings: Fox News behaved egregiously, but the settlement was good for the law.

    Before Fox News’s agreeing to pay Dominion $787.5 million, the voting machine company had received redundant, well-publicized vindications of its probity: Fox News never ventured onto the thin ice of arguing that it ever had even a smidgen of evidence to support what was said by the Dominion detractors — Trump lawyers and a pillow-hawking acolyte — to whom Fox News gave abundant airtime. (My Pillow’s Mike Lindell to Tucker Carlson, Jan. 26, 2021: “I have the evidence … I dare Dominion to sue me because then it will get out faster … they don’t want to talk about it.” Carlson: “No they don’t.”)

    Certain local websites should be happy that they're too low-profile for Dominion Voting Systems to go after them in court.

  • I don't often quote Letters to the Editors, but John Gimmy of Chesapeake City, MD seems to have war-gamed a likely scenario for Social Security "reform":

    Does anyone really believe that in 10 years Congress will stand by and do nothing when Social Security benefits are set to be cut by 23%? (“The Biden-Trump Plan to Cut Social Security” by David McIntosh, op-ed, April 14). Of course not. Congress will legislate a fix. But what kind of fix?

    If you follow the debate, Republicans favor structural changes such as raising the retirement age and tweaking benefit formulas, while Democrats favor raising taxes. But structural changes need time to have a meaningful effect on the program’s finances. So, if we delay for 10 years, structural changes will no longer be able to fix the immediate problem and Congress will be forced to enact sizable tax increases. The Democrats seem to have realized that all they need to do is stall, and in the end they get what they want. Why can’t Republicans see this?

    Answer to John's final question: I believe it has something to do with being the stupid party.

  • PC mag's Neil J. Rubenking provides a Warning: Don't Let Google Manage Your Passwords.

    Password management programs have been around since the '90s, and the major browsers added password management as a built-in feature in the early 2000s. Ever since then, we at PCMag have advised getting your passwords out of insecure browser storage and into a proper, well-protected password manager. Back then, we could point to password managers that would extract passwords from your browser, delete them from the browser, and turn off further browser-based password capture. That sure doesn’t sound safe!

    Thankfully, browsers have made progress and no longer leave your passwords quite so open to external manipulation. If you want to switch to a dedicated password manager, for instance, you’ll probably have to actively export passwords from the browser and import them into your new product.

    But have browsers made enough progress than we can recommend storing your passwords in them? Specifically, should you use Google Password Manager, which is conveniently built right into Chrome? According to experts, the answer remains a resounding no.

    And it just so happens that the "experts" Rubenking is relying on are "from several well-known commercial password manager companies".

    Hm. See the article comments. Some of them are pretty insightful about the ethics issues here.

    For the record, I use the Chrome browser, and I use its Password Manager. But only for sites I consider to be low-impact: no banks, credit card companies, or the tax people, for example.

    For those critical-to-high impact sites, I store passwords in GPG-encrypted files on a virtual Linux guest on my Windows desktop. This is, I think, pretty secure. I might get around to posting the gory details in the geekery section someday.

Last Modified 2024-01-13 12:59 PM EDT

I'd Watch This Movie

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Perhaps John Cusack could star in a movie based on this Holman W. Jenkins, Jr. column: Biden and the Media Are Electric-Vehicle Grifters.

When I pestered a senior Biden climate official a few months ago about the counterintuitive argument that green handouts won’t reduce fossil-fuel consumption, he surprised me by finishing my sentence. The only real solution is for governments “to put a price on carbon,” he said, and speculated Democrats and Republicans might break the ice with a carbon-related import tax.

The point being, economic sanity exists everywhere except in the policies of the Biden administration and media coverage of them.

Unbidden in a recent Journal podcast, the Harvard economist Ken Rogoff spontaneously offered a similar assessment of the “craziness” of current policy in contrast with the only “sane thing that’s going to work.” Tyler Cowen, the author and economist, voiced the same critique in a podcast with green investor Jeremy Grantham: “We make green energy much cheaper, but dirty energy becomes cheaper” and “the world just uses much more energy.”

Jenkins runs the numbers, concluding that the Biden decree would if it worked as planned eliminate 0.18% of global emissions.

Briefly noted:

  • Not just a grift, but also: Biden’s New Emissions Standards Are Noxious. Luther Ray Abel:

    Before all else, let’s consider the legality. I think the president acts beyond his powers when deputizing an executive agency to advance such a broad agenda without congressional oversight. These regulations would substantively alter the automotive sector beyond simply nudging automakers to increase efficiency — and as such, the law leaves it up to state attorneys general such as West Virginia’s Patrick Morrisey to fight against them. That said, Congress showed itself a willing accomplice in 2022, passing the Inflation Reduction Act with its host of climate directives and related funding.

    With the legality of the EPA’s guidance unknown for now, the projections for electric-vehicle (EV) adoption with and without increased regulations help drive home Americans’ suspicion regarding the widespread adoption of what is considered a niche technology. Without standards beyond the already stringent emissions standards set to kick in in 2026, the EPA reckons that only 39 percent of new car sales would be EVs in 2032. With the new 2032 standards, that number would grow to 67 percent. In other words, Americans are not expected to buy new electric cars unless the other options are removed while the feds dangle taxpayer money in their faces. The carrot is the IRS’s $7,500 tax credit for buying a new EV, but only nominally American EVs; the stick is the EPA’s playing Calvinball and drubbing manufacturers with penalties while further tightening the rules every time Toyota or General Motors get within hailing distance of the emissions goals.

    What’s especially grating about this is how buried the standards are. From the New York Times to Car and Driver, the coverage of these standards opts to repeat the administration’s lines about how they will increase the widespread adoption of electric vehicles while eliding why that may be the case — namely, that they will make it nigh-impossible to build and purchase a vehicle with an ICE. Those that will be sold are going to be luxury models with fat profit margins and low production numbers offset by the peasantry tooling around in the EV equivalent of the miserable Chevrolet Cruze — a low-cost junk car willed into existence so that GM could balance out its emissions checkbook. On page 39 of the EPA’s new emissions guidelines, after pages of EV salesmanship that can be summarized by Remy’s immortal parody of Elizabeth Warren’s line “People will die!”, the proposal’s authors finally reveal their standards for light-duty vehicles (i.e., the cars and trucks most Americans drive).

    I'm pretty sure I've embedded that Remy parody before, but here you go again:

  • Lawrence W. Reed has some economic advice: Don’t Call Scandinavian Countries ‘Socialist’.

    One of the great delusions of our day is that Scandinavian countries are “socialist” and so America should be socialist too. Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and others of the ultra-Left repeatedly claim that Norway, Sweden and Denmark (sometimes they include Finland and Iceland too) are prosperous because they are socialist.

    Reed notes that the rankings provided by the latest edition of the Index of Economic Freedom have Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Norway (in positions #9, #10, #11, and #12 respectively) out freedom-ing the US of A, which has dropped to #25.

    Of course, those cold countries countries tax the bejeezus out of their citizenry, but…

  • It really makes you wonder whether taxes are the mark of a civilized society. Steven Greenhut assures us, however, that Taxes Are Not the Mark of Civilized Society.

    There's obviously some truth in that message. We need to pay for the infrastructure, schools, police patrols, parks, and other public services that support a well-functioning society. Yet there's nothing particularly civilized about the way our governments spend the money we provide—or the money our great-grandkids will presumably pay if the feds make good on nearly $32 trillion in federal debt.

    It's mind-boggling to think about how little we actually get for all that cash, especially here in California where the state government measures success by how much money they allocate for different programs rather than by how effectively those programs fulfill their stated goals. The governor always touts bold new "investments," yet would anyone argue that the funded programs alleviate any of the state's many problems and crises?

    I should point out Cato's Freedom in the 50 States 2021, which has New Hampshire in the top spot, California at #48. (But, hey, it beat the heck out of Hawaii and New York.)

Last Modified 2024-01-13 12:59 PM EDT


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Another book down on my "Reread the Neal Stephenson Novels I Haven't Read Recently" project. I don't have much to add to my previous report from 2015. Although I noticed that, although it was nominated for the Hugo Best Novel, it didn't win. I consider that a travesty; was The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin really that good?

Last Modified 2024-01-13 12:59 PM EDT

Kachumber Word Salad

Reader, please meet Yashwant Prakash Vyas, MPA (he, his, his):

Let me say up front: he seems like a totally nice guy. I like his duds. I respect his advertised pronouns. (While deploring the environment that encourages their advertisement.) And I welcome him to our fair state and the University Near Here.

But he has unfortunately adopted the single worst characteristic of universicrats: ugly, stale, vague, trite, pretentious, hackneyed language. Commandment One of their lingo: Thou shalt never use a single word or phrase when you can stuff in two or more.

(And, yes, I followed that Commandment myself there. Intentionally, be assured.)

It's as if they use a style guide adapted from all the bad examples from George Orwell's essay "Politics and the English Language".

It's tough to follow Commandment One given the space limitations of a tweet, but Vyas does manage it.

  • Not just "understanding of" leadership: instead, "understanding of" and "approach to" leadership.
  • And (of course), not just "equity": instead, "equity, inclusion, and social justice".

He's also displaying mastery of Commandment Two: "Thou shalt use opaque and inflated jargon for no good reason."

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  • He's looking to "complicate" that understanding of/approach to leadership. Is that supposed to be a good thing now?
  • And he'll be using at least one "lens" to do that. Maybe three? Is an equity lens different from an inclusion lens? Or a social justice lens?

To adapt the title of a recent book, Amazon link at your right: "You are not expected to understand this."

Vyas was brought to my attention via a UNH Today article: Vyas Receives National Recognition for Contributions to Student Leadership Programs.

Yashwant Prakash Vyas, director of UNH’s Aulbani J. Beauregard Center for Equity, Justice, and Freedom, was recognized with the Outstanding Contributions to Student Leadership Programs Award from NASPA’s Student Leadership Programs Knowledge Community (SLPKC) at the organization’s 2023 annual conference in Boston, Massachusetts.

NASPA, an organization representing student affairs administrators in higher education, is the largest association in student affairs with a diverse network of more than 15,000 professionals at 2,100 institutions around the globe.

It's a diverse network. Of course.

And as far as Commandment One goes, Vyas will have the oppportunity to learn from those who have mastered the art:

“Yashwant continues to be a rising star as it relates to building and facilitating initiatives that provide avenues for student growth and development, particularly as it relates to student leadership skills and competencies around allyship, advocacy, diversity, equity, inclusion and justice,” says Nadine Petty, associate vice president and chief diversity officer and interim Title IX coordinator at UNH. “His recognition by NASPA is well-deserved and is a reflection of his unwavering dedication to students and his abilities in the DEIJ arena.”

I should also mention Commandment Three: "Thou shalt not worry whether you're making sense." AVP/CDO/ITIXC Perry is apparently fond of the phrase "as it relates to", maybe having it as a hotkey on her computer. But note that her first usage above is simply incoherent—to what is "it" referring? (Not Yashwant, surely; "it" is not his pronoun!)

According to Commandment Three, it doesn't matter.

But otherwise Nadine is a master of Commandment One:

  • Not just "growth" but "growth" and "development".
  • Not just "skills" but "skills" and "competencies".
  • His recognition is not just "well-deserved"; it's also a "reflection".
  • And that reflection is not just of Vyas's "dedication" but of his "dedication" and "abilities"
  • And of course, an array of goodnesses: "allyship, advocacy, diversity, equity, inclusion and justice" (Those last four, but not the first two for some reason, encapsulated in the DEIJ acronym.)

I'm sure Vyas will continue his rising star path. Just needs to work on that prose.

As noted, Vyas is in charge of The Aulbani J. Beauregard Center for Equity, Justice, and Freedom at UNH; yes, its very title is a shout-out to Commandment One. Sample from their "Incident Reports" box on their home page:

The Aulbani J. Beauregard Center for Equity, Justice, and Freedom is now a confidential resource. However, if you have observed, experienced or been provided information about an incident of sexual harassment, and, or sexual violence, discrimination, harassment, retaliation or bias, please report the incident by contacting the Civil Rights & Equity Office at (603) 862-2930 Voice / TTY Users 7-1-1 or submit an Incident Report Form (IRF). Anonymous reports may be submitted with the exception of Mandatory Reporters.

I confess that I don't know what it means for the AJBCfEJF to be "now" a "confidential resource". What was it before? But in any case, if you want to gripe about something, you need to deal with a different group, the "Civil Rights & Equity Office".

And note that when you're struggling to obey Commandment One, you can also invoke Commandment Three. Try to parse the syntax around "and, or" above. '

Briefly noted:

  • MIT's Alex Byrne describes his perilous adventures in academic publishing within Philosophy’s No-Go Zone.

    A staple of Philosophy 101 is René Descartes’s Meditations, in which the 17th century Frenchman devotes himself to the “general demolition” of his own opinions. In a couple of pages, he succeeds in demolishing his conviction that he has “hands or eyes.” This is the ethos of philosophy—question claims that we ordinarily take for granted and can’t imagine denying. Nothing is off the table. Weak-minded scientists may conform their conclusions to the prevailing orthodoxy, but at least clear-eyed philosophers will remain unbowed.

    Alas, that isn’t true. When the (then junior) philosopher Rebecca Tuvel published a paper on “transracialism” in 2017, there was a huge firestorm. More recently, the UK philosopher Kathleen Stock resigned from Sussex University in 2021 after three years of harassment. Both times, fellow philosophers turned up waving pitchforks. Both times, the heresies concerned transgender issues (although Tuvel had compounded her felony by connecting them to race).

    Read all about Byrne's experiences in arguing for the proposition that "a woman is an adult human female."

Last Modified 2024-01-30 6:11 AM EDT

Everybody Who Disagrees With Me is Crazy

Loren Selig is not, as you might think, a 17-year-old mean girl at Oyster River High School. Instead, she's a middle-aged member of the state legislature from Durham; she's married to the Durham Town Administrator, Tom Selig. And she tweets:

Well, (a) it's Fort Sumter; (b) he's governor because he got 57% of the vote last November; (c) given her hostility to states resisting federal mandates, it's unknown how she feels about New Hampshire sanctuary cities; (d) "steaming turd", really?

Well, anyway, she tweeted something else that irked me enough to reply, oh so mildly:

I was Twitter-brief, but I'll try to expand a bit here. Mean-girl Selig is engaging in one of the cheapest of cheap shots: alleging that people that carry weaponry in public are, in essence, cowards, scaredy-cats, pusillanimous, chicken-hearted, yellow-bellied, …

Well, at least she didn't call them steaming turds.

There really ought to be a label for this sort of thing. It's kind of ad hominem, but that usually means that there's some sort of argument going on. It's really just a sneering, condescending insult, I guess, and presented without evidence.

As near as I can tell, the evidence actually goes the other way. As linked in my tweet, someone actually did a study. And…

Are gun owners more or less afraid than people who do not own guns? A new study from researchers at Florida State University and the University of Arizona hopes to add some empirical data to the conversation after finding that gun owners tend to report less fear than non-gun owners.

The study, led by sociology doctoral student Benjamin Dowd-Arrow, used the 2014 Chapman University Survey of American Fears to examine both the types and the amount of fear that gun owners had in comparison to non-gun owners.

“There’s a lot of popular rhetoric in the media and among politicians as to why people own guns,” Dowd-Arrow said. “The biggest claim is that they’re cowards. So, we wanted to see if owning guns was truly a symptom of fear.”

Summary: nope.

The science is settled, Loren.

Briefly noted:

  • Madeline Kearns argues Transgenderism Is the New Blackface.

    In the 19th and 20th centuries, minstrel shows featuring white actors in blackface — dark makeup worn to make them look black — spread throughout the United States. This practice was laughed off as entertainment. Today, it’s considered to be racial appropriation and stereotyping. But aren’t men who impersonate women similarly guilty of appropriation and stereotyping? If blackface is racist, then surely “womanface” is sexist.

    Theatrical cross-dressing has been around for centuries. On the stage, these performances were often ironic and humorous. But there is also a more sinister kind of female impersonation, one that serves to advance the anti-woman ideology of transgenderism.

    It was not uncommon in minstrel shows for white people to portray African Americans as ignorant and criminal, reinforcing racist sentiments. And with transgenderism, it is not uncommon for men to portray women as hypersexualized and airheaded.

    I believe the people who oppose Madeline's observation will respond: "That's different, because shut up."

  • What are the odds that any hasty plan cooked up by Chuck Schumer is a really good idea? Well, let's see what Ronald Bailey thinks about his latest… Oh oh: Chuck Schumer's Hasty Plan to Regulate A.I. Is a Really Bad Idea.

    Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D–N.Y.) announced that he has launched a "major effort to get ahead of artificial intelligence." Basically, he plans to impose federal regulations on artificial intelligence (A.I.) technologies soon. Such new regulations will do for A.I. what federal regulations have already done to crop biotechnology: slow progress way down, deny consumers substantial benefits, and make sure that only Big Tech wins, all while not increasing safety or lowering risks.

    Schumer's one of the people who relies on scaring the crap out of people in order to push his agenda.

  • Jonah Goldberg names and shames one of Putin’s Useful Idiots. Specifically:

    She says the “real enemy” isn’t Russia but the U.S. government. Calling it the “Biden regime” is some tedious marketing of a fundamentally anti-American brain burp of an idea. I’ve given up trying to explain, first to the left (“the Bush regime!” “Regime change starts at home!”) and more recently to the right, that a presidential administration isn’t a “regime.” The U.S. Constitution and our system of government is the regime. I don’t expect Greene to understand such distinctions—or care. 

    But what Greene is saying is that our real “enemy”—in the context of an actual shooting war—is the Biden administration and anyone who supports it. This “white, male Christian” isn’t a criminal, he’s a victim of the regime. 

    From Steve Bannon to various MAGA remora, there’s a whole cottage industry of tough losers telling us that Vladimir Putin is a manly man standing up for Western values and that “our” real enemies are fellow Americans. One can dismiss these emanations from the “civil war is coming” crowd for only so long before it’s no longer tenable to give them the benefit of the doubt as mere grifters and poltroons. Vladimir Putin despises the West and America. He sees the people saying this stuff as modern day useful idiots. 

    I can't help but wonder what Walter Duranty, that most useful of idiots, would think about current events.

  • In our "Told Ya So" department, Becket Adams points out: That IRS Hiring Binge? It’s Happening, Just as We Suspected.

    In 2022, when the public learned that the Inflation Reduction Act earmarked an astonishing $80 billion for the Internal Revenue Service, the corporate press insisted everyone remain calm.

    The $80 billion provided by President Biden’s massive social-welfare spending legislation would be used only on the other guys, members of the press argued. You know, the millionaires and billionaires. Don’t listen to the critics, advised our commentariat. It’s a conspiracy to think an IRS wealthier by $80 billion will translate into an auditor-hiring binge and an overabundance of scrutiny and red tape for workers and middle-class families. Indeed, credulous newsrooms claimed at the time, the $80 billion will mostly address “workforce attrition.”

    On April 7, 2023, Politico scored a scoop: The IRS is on track to grow its workforce to levels not seen since the late 1990s. So much for “workforce attrition.”

    It should have been obvious (as it was to the WSJ at the time) that the $80 billion was for new employees, despite the obfuscation from the Administration about "attrition". Someone should have asked whether new employees aren't less expensive than those they replace. Oh, wait, I did.

The Phony Campaign

2023-04-16 Update

Mr. Ramirez describes the cynical revisionism of the Biden Administration, in a picture:

[Credibility Left Behind]

And also in words:

The Biden administration has just completed a review of the Afghanistan withdrawal. The administration says, “they were proud” of the botched withdrawal, and then blamed it on the Trump administration. Coordinator for strategic communications at the National Security Council, John Kirby said, “For all this talk of chaos, I just didn’t see it.”

Kirby either needs to get a better television or a seeing-eye dog.

He doesn't excuse President Bone Spurs:

Granted, the withdrawal was part of an ill-conceived Trump administration U.S.-Taliban deal signed in February of 2020 designating the date for complete withdrawal by May 1st.

Trump even impulsively tweeted that he would have the troops home by Christmas in 2020, which caught administration officials by surprise, undermined negotiations and emboldened the Taliban. In January 2021, the Trump administration reduced U.S. troops to 2500.

But the Buck stops with the Biden administration.

And yet, according to the latest word from Election Betting Odds claims these two irresponsible, incompetent clowns together have a > 60% of being elected in 2024:

Candidate EBO Win
Hit Count
Ron DeSantis 17.1% +0.4% 10,500,000 +5,920,000
Donald Trump 26.6% +0.7% 1,320,000 +160,000
Joe Biden 34.1% +0.5% 544,000 +131,000
Kamala Harris 2.9% -0.2% 104,000 -4,000
Gavin Newsom 3.0% +0.8% 47,300 -1,200
Other 16.3% -2.2% --- ---

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

  • All that makes this entry from Reason's "Debate" issue particularly relevant: Jesse Walker (pro) and Jason Brennan (con) argue about whether Democracy Is the Worst Form of Government Except for All the Others.

    The above tilts me toward the "con" side, so I will quote Brennan:

    Imagine you were deciding what to eat, whether and with whom to have sex, how to dress, whether and what to worship, where to work, or what rules would govern your life. Imagine we gave you a one in 3 million chance of making these decisions for yourself, along with a 2,999,999 chance that others will decide for you. We wouldn't call this a situation in which you consent to the outcome, exercise autonomy, live only by rules you set for yourself, or govern yourself. We wouldn't call it freedom.

    Indeed, that's the very point of democracy. Democracy is not supposed to be a system in which we as individuals decide for ourselves. It's a system which disempowers individuals in favor of the majority—or the biggest minority. Even members of that very majority are powerless. It's better to have a vote than not, but an individual vote protects you from the caprice of the majority no more than a bucket protects you from a tsunami.

    This is why I get so cranky when dim bulbs like Stefany Shaheen prattle on about "The beauty of a democratic form of government is that WE the people have power." And then proceed to demand that "WE" vote for politicians that would institute "A mandatory assault weapon buyback program."

    And how much "beauty" is there, really, in a system of government that, odds are, will provide us with either Trump or Biden on January 20, 2025?

  • I would, for example, vote in a heartbeat for Vivek Ramaswamy. Unfortunately, as Charles C. W. Cooke tells us, Vivek Ramaswamy Isn’t Really Running for President.

    I first became aware of Vivek Ramaswamy at an event in 2021. Like Austen’s Mr. Wickham, he simpered, and smirked, and made love to us all, without ever having considered that we might notice. He was, he explained through his TED-style headset microphone, so profoundly worried about the rise of wokeness in America that he had decided to leave his lucrative job and work on the issue full time. There was, he insisted more than once, nothing in this for him. This was an all-hands-on-deck moment that required personal sacrifice and the suspension of ambition. If the audience wanted to grasp just how bad things had become, it should read his new book, available at all good bookstores for $27.99 plus tax.

    Two years later, Ramaswamy is still sacrificing himself for the cause. To help us all fight against those dastardly progressive threats, he has launched an anti-woke ETF, with an expense ratio four times higher than its nearest competitor. He has bravely launched a podcast to which you ought to subscribe; “political consultants told me launching a podcast is a major campaign liability,” he tweeted last week, but “we’re doing it anyway.” Oh, and he’s running for president, too. Not since the burning of William Tyndale have we been blessed by self-abnegation on this scale.

    Click through, if you can, to continue reading about the guy CCWC describes as "a smarmy, opportunistic automaton."

    Still, better than Trump or Biden, right? Such is my mood this mid-April morn.

  • EBO says that Ron DeSantis still has a significant shot at the presidency, so let us take a look at What 'Freedom' Means to Ron DeSantis, according to Reason's Eric Boehm:.

    DeSantis talks a lot about freedom, and even more about the supposed threats to it. For the governor, those seem to lurk everywhere, from drag shows to Disney and from undocumented immigrants to corporate "diversity, equity, and inclusion" efforts. In his new book, titled The Courage To Be Free, and in speeches like the one he gave on April 1 to a crowd of local elected officials and conservative activists in central Pennsylvania, DeSantis portrays Florida as a place that's been able to withstand the myriad assaults on freedom because he's been willing (and eager) to deploy the power of the state.

    But he rarely offers much in the way of a definition of freedom, preferring instead, one assumes, to let everyone in the audience define the thing for themselves. When he does get into specifics, it's usually to draw some telling distinctions.

    "For years, the default conservative posture has been to limit government," he writes in the new book. That idea must be discarded, he adds: "Elected officials who do nothing more than get out of the way are essentially green-lighting these institutions to continue their unimpeded march through society."

    I'm afraid anyone with libertarian tendencies would have to hold their nose pretty hard to vote for Governor Ron.

  • It is inconceivable to me that there doesn't appear to be any song, ever, called "I Just Can't Shake Them Chicago Blues". Alexa won't play it, anyhow. ("Sorry, I don't know that one.") (Which would also be a damn good song title.)

    Chris Stirewalt comes pretty close to writing it, though: Democrats Can’t Shake Chicago Blues.

    When people suffer as a result of doing something foolish, like being hospitalized after seeking the healing power of “raw water” or having to be saved by a rescue crew after choosing a tidal cave for do-it-yourself porn pictures, we are first tempted to say, “Ah, drugs …”

    But people do amazingly dumb things all the time without the aid of any chemical enhancements—like, for instance, Democrats choosing the city of Chicago as the host for its 2024 convention. One assumes that the members of the Democratic National Committee were not under the influence of anything stronger than statins and maybe some legal ganja when they picked the troubled city for their gathering.

    Yes, the most powerful mind-altering agent in politics remains self-deception. Democrats going to a city that is infamous for street crime and soon to be under the mayoralty of a progressive favorite who is already facing pushback from the police and business leaders would be like Republicans holding their convention at Mar-a-Lago. (Not that I would put it past them …) The first rule of a nominating convention, especially when your party is incumbent, is to make no trouble. So why on earth go to Chicago?

    Wasn't the last Democratic National Convention held in Chicago in 1968? I remember that went well…

    Ah, no. They slipped into Chicago last in 1996, renominating the Clinton/Gore ticket. Kind of a mixed bag, to put it mildly.

    Except for connoisseurs of phoniness. That was an excellent pairing for them.

Last Modified 2024-01-30 6:11 AM EDT

Andrew Heaton, National Treasure

He Fixes the Student Loan Debt Crisis and doesn't even demand you thank him:

No transcript at the link, but if your sense of humor is close to mine, you'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll want to Google 'narwhal'. And here's a (relatively) serious point he makes:

Right now, universities, understandably, allocate seats and majors based on popularity, not how useful the degree is in the real world. Because they get paid by selling degrees to students, not by how useful those degrees actually are.

Briefly noted:

  • Speaking of universities, NHJournal takes a look at the latest from the University Near Here: UNH Pulls Planned 'Counter Programming' to Students for Life Event.

    When the University of New Hampshire Students for Life planned an event on campus, opponents of their pro-life politics took action. They planned their own event in the same building and simultaneously as a counterprotest to the Students for Life event.

    This counterprogramming is significant because it was launched not by the pro-lifers’ fellow students but by UNH administrators — specifically the UNH Health and Wellness Center. And it is part of what pro-life UNH students say is a culture of opposition and intimidation at the Durham campus.


    “We started to advertise and spread the word, and it didn’t take long for the UNH Health and Wellness Center to announce plans to host their own event. It’s in the exact same building at the exact same time,” Regan said.

    UNH administration apparently decided that throwing their official weight onto one side of a contentious political issue would be a bad look for an institution that prides itself on being "inclusive" and "welcoming". This was put up on the Health and Wellness Center's Facebook page for a while, then appears to have been memory-holed:

    [Health, Wellness, and Abortion]

    "Abortion as healthcare". Celebrate it, unless you're an unborn child.

  • Joe Lancaster notes an issue that's lost on the current generation of climatistas: EPA Ban of Gasoline-Powered Cars Will Hinder Electric Vehicle Development. So it's not a bad idea simply because it's an offensively totalitarian dictate!

    The Biden administration should let the market decide. Clearly, there is a demand for electric vehicles. But by insisting on the rate at which the industry needs to make the transition, the administration's incentives could be undermining progress. Axios noted this week that "battery technology is still evolving…meaning the U.S. may be at risk of building mines and factories to produce batteries that wind up being obsolete in a decade."

    As Reason's Ronald Bailey wrote in the March 2023 issue, electrochemists are already devising new methods of powering electric cars that don't use scarce materials. By imposing such a breakneck timeline, the EPA is forcing automakers to choose production over innovation.

    And that's not all…

  • Dominic Pino detects mental malfunction: The Government’s Own Numbers Show Biden’s EV Mandate Is Crazy. Not just stupid and offensive! Crazy!

    Among the many other problems:

    The Annual Energy Outlook [from "Energy Information Administration (EIA), the statistical arm of the Department of Energy"] also projects electric-vehicle adoption as part of its energy forecasts. Currently, it says that EVs have a 6.4 percent market share. By 2050, the reference scenario projects that EVs will have an 18.7 percent market share. Even in the most extreme scenario, with high oil prices, it projects that EVs will make up 28.5 percent of new cars by 2050.

    The EPA yesterday said that it wants EVs’ market share to be 67 percent by 2032. This target is not even on the same planet as the EIA’s March forecast, and the two don’t even refer to the same types of EVs. The EPA wants 67 percent of new cars by 2032 to be battery-electric vehicles that take no gasoline at all. The EIA’s definition of EVs in the report includes plug-in hybrids in addition to battery-electrics. Excluding plug-in hybrids, the EIA projects only 14 percent adoption of battery-electric cars by 2050 in the reference scenario and 24 percent in the most extreme scenario of high oil prices.

    I think it would be kind of neat to have an EV, but every time I game it out, it comes up impractical.

  • In our "Hey Kids, What Time Is It?" department, WIRED has some New Hampshire news, specifically from down Exeter way: It’s Time to Stop Arresting People for Trolling the Government.

    After Robert Frese posted a nasty Facebook comment about a police officer in 2018, police obtained a warrant to arrest him. This was the second time in six years that Frese was charged with “criminal defamation.”

    Frese does not live in Russia, China, Iran, or another country notorious for oppressive speech laws. He lives in New Hampshire, which criminalizes the act of purposely making a false statement that exposes someone “to public hatred, contempt, or ridicule.” While Americans typically associate defamation with civil lawsuits, in which the alleged victim sues the speaker for money, many are unaware that, in some states, defamation is a crime that can lead to fines or jail time.

    The writer wisely refrains from referring to NH as the Live Free or Die state. He'd like to see SCOTUS take up the case. I'll just make my usual observation: our state really outdoes itself on serving up free speech cases:

    Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire; Cox v. New Hampshire; Sweezy v. New Hampshire; Wooley v. Maynard. Frese v. New Hampshire next?

  • Nearly two weeks ago I fisked an editorial column from steffany Shaheen, which was full of emotionalism, conspirarcism, and just plain bad ideas about gun control. among her proposals:

    • A mandatory assault weapon buyback program.

    As more people notice, she's now advocating… well, something else. Not sure what. Her recent tweet, and my response:

    If I was feeling uncharitable, I'd say she's backtracking. In the words of J. Alfred Prufrock: "“That is not what I meant at all; That is not it, at all.”

Last Modified 2024-01-30 6:11 AM EDT

What a Difference 500 Years Makes

That's the approximate span between Michel Angelo's The Creation of Adam and Michael Ramirez's…

[The Creation of Mayhem]

Kind of a downer, that. Sorry.

Briefly noted:

  • While many people are wondering why twenty-something doofuses have access to America's classified intelligence, the WSJ is wondering about something else: Why Is America Still Flying the A-10 Warthog, a Cold War Relic? This excerpt will give you the flavor:

    Efforts by lawmakers to bring military jobs and funding to their districts and keep them there are as old as Congress itself. But they come at a huge opportunity cost at a time when the U.S. is facing its most formidable adversary since the end of the Cold War. Congress is in effect forcing the Pentagon to spend billions on programs for which it sees no role in future wars.

    Lawmakers also barred the Air Force from retiring its C-40 VIP passenger planes, which are 18 years old on average and have undergone significant upgrades, and limited the service’s authority to shrink its fleet of aging E-3 AWACS radar planes until it can replace them with more advanced E-7 Wedgetails.

    Congress protected the oldest planes in the large fleet of F-15 jet fighters, many of which are flown by Air National Guard units across the country, as well as the Air Force’s oldest F-22s, both of which the Air Force wants to replace with more advanced planes.

    (The online version of the WSJ article is very slick, and they claim that the link provided above is "free".)

    We don't have much Air Force activity around here any more, but our New Hampshire and Maine Congresscritters are on the watch to ensure that we don't have a repeat of 2005's Base Realignment and Closure scare, which oh-so-temporarily put Portsmouth Naval Shipyard on its money-saving list.

  • I fully agree with Liz Wolfe: we should Ax Government Funding for NPR.

    NPR wants to have it both ways: Its supporters say less than 1 percent of its funding comes from the government but its website claims "federal funding is essential to public radio's service to the American public." It wants to continue holding out its hands for government funding, but it also wants to brag about complete and total editorial independence—two ideas held in tension—while developing quite the reputation for lefty bias (backed up by the Knight Foundation and Pew Research Center audience polling), which leaves conservative and libertarian taxpayers' stomachs churning.

    But Tea Partiers of yore, Trumpy types today, and Musk fanboys miss that it's not that NPR is totally wrong on everything, or the enemy of the people, or a Pravda-style propaganda arm of the U.S. government. NPR has reported on the Social Security Ponzi scheme; how petty fines lead to driver's license suspensions; not to mention airing the dulcet tones of Reason's own Nick Gillespie making the case for…defunding public radio. ("The idea that we have an inalienable right to Car Talk or Sesame Street to be piped in over tax-supported airwaves strikes me as a stretch," said Gillespie in 2010.) NPR does good work at times and has shifted its funding model over the years to rely much more on individual, corporate, and foundation contributions. Its member stations ought to do the same, and all of them can succeed or fail of their own merit, the way pretty much all other publications and broadcasters do in this country.

    Liz also notes "it's tough to say exactly how much tainted taxed-away money is flowing into NPR's now-resplendent coffers." Like many government-subsidized activities, taxpayer funding is (probably intentionally) kept as opaque as possible.

  • Need some Fast Facts about Medicare and Social Security? Cato has you covered. Although if you're worried about Uncle Stupid's fiscal health, there's not a lot that will alleviate your concerns. Sample:

    • Medicare is the second largest federal government program, spending $1 trillion in 2023, or an amount equal to 3.8 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

      • Medicare spending will double to $2 trillion or 5.1 percent of GDP by 2033. That’s twice what the U.S. government will spend on defense that year.
      • 65 million Americans receive Medicare at an average cost for taxpayers of $12,100 per beneficiary.
      • Studies estimate that one‐​third of Medicare spending provides no value: it makes patients no healthier or happier.
      • Studies have found Medicare increased total hospital spending by 37 percent over five years.
    • Medicare is already contributing to federal deficits and facing increasing budget shortfalls.

      • Medicare will be responsible for $446 billion in deficits, or one third of the entire 2023 federal budget deficit of 5.3 percent of GDP.
      • Medicare’s trust funds hold no real assets and only Medicare Part A is funded by payroll taxes. The majority (64 percent) of Medicare spending is financed by other taxes and borrowing.
      • When the Medicare Hospital Insurance (Part A) trust fund ledger goes to 0 by 2031, inpatient providers will face a reimbursement cut of 11 percent.
      • $48.4 trillion or 60 percent of the $78.4 trillion in 75‐​year unfunded obligations for Medicare and Social Security is due to spending on Medicare Parts B and D, with taxpayers on the hook for the difference between what beneficiaries pay in premiums and the benefits they receive.
      • If Congress raised payroll taxes to cover Medicare Part A’s 75‐​year unfunded obligation, a median wage earner ($44,000/year) would face an additional $700 in annual taxes.

    Cato follows up with equally fast, and equally worrying, facts about Social Security

  • So maybe we should examine (from David McIntosh) The Biden-Trump Plan to Cut Social Security.

    Joe Biden and Donald Trump agree on one thing. “I guarantee you I will protect Social Security and Medicare without any change. Guaranteed,” Mr. Biden said in March. Mr. Trump has said: “I will do everything within my power not to touch Social Security, to leave it the way it is.” A pro-Trump super PAC launched an ad attacking Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for his efforts as a member of Congress to restructure benefits.

    The Biden-Trump position may sound like a pledge to protect Social Security, but it isn’t. The law “without any change” requires a huge benefit cut in 10 years.

    Small correction: Trump's plan is actually for a yuge benefit cut in 10 years.


  • At the Hill, Shai Akabas sees possible saviors of Social Security: Finally, we have a true shot at bipartisan social security reform.

    It is thus heartening that a bipartisan group of senators is leading the effort to strengthen and modernize the program that reaches 67 million Americans each month. The effort’s success will depend on the willingness of policymakers and the public to rise above the current political rhetoric filled with unproductive absolutes such as no tax increases or no benefit cuts. Inevitably, some of the proposals entertained by the lawmakers will be more controversial than others, but critics should withhold judgment until they can be analyzed holistically. We should applaud their willingness to confront reality and put forward legislation to address the serious challenges ahead.

    Geez, thank goodness for bipartisan groups of senators, huh? Akabas doesn't name them, but links to another article that does.

    One of the ideas being floated (other than the standard tax increases, benefit cuts, retirement age bumps) is a so-called sovereign wealth fund. Which is (Wikipedia) "a state-owned investment fund that invests in real and financial assets such as stocks, bonds, real estate, precious metals, or in alternative investments such as private equity fund or hedge funds."

    Yes, I'm sure nothing could go wrong there.

Last Modified 2024-01-30 6:11 AM EDT

Human Sacrifice! Dogs and Cats Living Together! Mass Hysteria!

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)
It's a spat for the ages, I tellz ya: National Public Radio’s Twitter Fight With Elon Musk. Via James Freeman:

The FBI isn’t the only taxpayer-supported organization coming under the microscope at Elon Musk’s Twitter. The staff at National Public Radio seems to be getting very prickly, to use a favorite NPR adjective, over Twitter’s effort to inform users about NPR and its business model. Mr. Musk’s social media company might just expose the basic contradiction in public broadcasting’s public relations.

For those who don’t follow government-favored media, the basic contradiction is this: Public broadcasters say they receive so little government funding that they remain completely independent. But if anyone ever tries to cut this allegedly trivial taxpayer funding, public broadcasters respond with howling lamentations about the looming destruction of essential communication and culture.

NPR gets "annual grants" from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Which, six years ago was <metaphor class="tired">on the chopping block</metaphor> in the first budget proposed by that crazy libertarian, Donald J. Trump. As were the equally noxious National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Good times.

Also commenting on the fuss is Chris Queen:

So, instead of pushing out its “editorial independence” on Twitter, NPR is asking listeners to follow it on TikTok — you know, the Chinese Communist spyware social media outlet.


Briefly noted:

  • Language notes from Charles C. W. Cooke, inspired by Bud Light’s Not-So-‘Inclusive’ Marketing. He notes Bud Light's Vice President Alissa Heinerscheid's efforts to make her swill more "inclusive".

    One might wonder how it is possible for the “truly inclusive” “tone shift” that will supposedly save Bud Light from the darkness to have lined up so perfectly with the exact collection of obsessions that are held by Heinerscheid and the cadre to which she belongs. Well, I’ll tell you: Because, when Heinerscheid talks about “inclusivity,” she doesn’t actually mean “inclusivity” in the way that an average observer would assume she means it. Once again, we have an example here of America’s rapidly diverging languages. In theory, terms such as “diversity,” “equity,” and “inclusion” sound presumptively desirable; who, in a country such as the United States, wouldn’t want those things in abundance? In practice, however, they mean something else altogether. In practice, “diversity” means people who look different but all think the same thing; “equity” means equal outcomes achieved by government force; and “inclusion” means prioritizing and protecting groups that progressives like. So it is here. In its modern context, “inclusive” has begun to resemble those “COEXIST” bumper stickers that you see on Subarus: Nominally, the message applies to a whole host of disparate groups; practically speaking, it’s aimed at just one.

    [Amazon Link]
    (paid link)

    [Amazon Link]
    (paid link)
    At right are the magnet stickers on my Subaru. No "COEXIST" there, Charlie.

    The "0.0" one is a self-mocking note to my lifelong aversion to running.

    And the doggie one is just the simple truth. (More dog content below.)

  • Speaking of the simple truth, David Harsanyi says Joe Biden's EV Edict Isn't Just Harmful, It's Fascistic.

    According to the contemporary left, it’s “authoritarian” for local elected officials to curate school library collections but fine for a powerful centralized federal government to issue an edict compelling a major industry to produce a product and then force hundreds of millions of people to buy it.

    President Biden is set to “transform” and “remake” the entire auto industry — “first with carrots, now with sticks”— notes the Washington Post, as if dictating the output of a major industry is within the governing purview of the executive branch. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing draconian emissions limits for vehicles, ensuring that 67 percent of all new passenger cars and trucks produced within nine years will be electric. This is state coercion. It is undemocratic. We are not governed; we are managed.

    I left a comment-tweet on Harsanyi's yesterday:

    This got more likes and retweets than I've ever had before. (It's roughly equivalent to my item here yesterday.) My endorphins were spiking.

  • Veronique de Rugy claims The Fed Has More Than a 'Credibility' Problem.

    I have heard some people say that the Federal Reserve has a credibility problem. The agency missed the biggest inflation spike since the 1980s, was slow to start rolling back pandemic policies and failed to spot the risks that some banks, such as Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), were facing. Instead of instilling confidence and stability, the Fed's policy communication has at times been so unclear and confused that it has only served to exacerbate market volatility.

    Credibility is a big enough problem, but unfortunately the Fed's issues go beyond that. The Fed as an institution, along with its policies, seem to be a main source of the economic instability America faces. In fact, David Stockman, Budget Director under President Ronald Reagan, calls the Fed "an SDI" — a Systematically Dangerous Institution.

    Back in my USENET days, I was chastised for criticizing the Fed, because it was brought into being because the previous US banking system "didn't work". Wish I'd had Vero around to quote back then.

  • Reason's recent "debate issue" featured a back-and-forth on a number of propositions. But none more important than this one between Jason Russell and Peter Suderman: Cats Are More Libertarian Than Dogs. Jason takes Pro:

    Cats don't take orders from anyone.

    True! But Suderman:

    To imagine that cats are more libertarian than dogs is to commit a fundamental error by assigning libertarian values to an animal's generalized character and behavior. It may well be true that cats are more independent-minded than dogs, that they follow fewer rules and orders, that they have an anarchic streak. But when determining whether cats or dogs are more libertarian creatures, the behavior of the animal on its own is irrelevant. The libertarian project is the project of human civilization and human liberty. A world with fewer anarchic cats—or even, for that matter, no cats at all—and far greater human freedom would obviously be a far more libertarian world.

    I see his point too. Just to be on the safe side, I have one of each.

Last Modified 2024-01-17 12:26 PM EDT

Nice Try, Kid

[Nice Try, Kid]

Mr. Ramirez provides the following commentary:

A man who identifies as a woman, promoting swill that identifies as beer, is igniting a national debate on how far WOKE and identity politics should dictate the norms of our society.

Bud Lightheaded — Steven Hayward, Power Line

Humanity for Sale —Jennifer Bilek, Substack

Next Step in the War on Kids —Holly’s Substack

Briefly noted:

  • Becket Adams describes The George Soros Double Standard.

    In 2020, a U.S. senator’s presidential campaign took out a full-page newspaper advertisement, promising voters her administration would target a specific Jewish man’s personal fortune. The advertisement highlighted the Jewish man’s considerable net worth, listing the dollar amount he’d be forced to surrender to the common good under the senator’s proposal.

    He “can’t buy us,” the senator had previously boasted.

    In 2017, a different U.S. senator’s presidential campaign produced a video asking what that same Jewish man planned “to do with all that money.” It added, “It doesn’t sound like he’s going to use it to help other people.” The video, which was produced for a series titled “The Faces of Greed,” likewise listed in dollar amounts the Jewish man’s personal wealth.

    CNBC called the newspaper advertisement a “bold move.” One reporter claimed it showed “chutzpah.” As for the video attack, it went almost completely unnoticed by the press, just another ho-hum episode in the senator’s crusade against the donor class.

    If you guessed the Jewish man is Democratic megadonor George Soros and the critics Republican lawmakers, you’d be wrong. The senators are Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and their target was the late Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson. The senators’ opposition to Adelson’s political engagement, and the press’s oftentimes sympathetic coverage of their opposition, is relevant even two years after his death because we are being told — once again — that it is antisemitic even to notice Soros’s political activity, let alone question it.

    To trot out the usual cliché: If not for double standards, Democrats would have no standards at all.

  • J.D. Tuccille demands that Critics of School Choice Should Define 'High-Quality Public Education'.

    Arizona has one of the more liberating school-choice policies in the country, allowing funding for a student's education to follow that child to chosen learning options. The state also has a newly minted governor who is hostile to education freedom. Despite attending a private school, Katie Hobbs wants to roll back the state's scholarship program and offer all kids "high-quality public education" instead. With her allies, she pretends that's a goal easily defined and achieved with more money, instead of a hotly debated topic involving irreconcilable differences over priorities, education philosophies, and ideology.

    After Hobbs opposed school choice in her inaugural address, Fox News Sunday host Shannon Bream asked, "Why shouldn't all students have a chance at what you said was so important in your own life?", especially in light of "the private Catholic high school that you went to."

    "My parents made that choice," Hobbs answered. "I begged them to send me to public school. We sacrificed a lot. There were times when we were on food stamps. So, it was a choice that they made, and they struggled to make that choice. What I want is for every student in the state of Arizona, no matter where they live, to have access to high-quality public education."

    Little Katie had a tough time getting along with the nuns, I guess.

    But J.D. points out that "high-quality public education" is becoming sort of a mantra, a hotkey-programmed term to be uttered or typed on demand, without need for critical thinking. Because who could be against it?

    Googling that term gives (as I type) about 247,000 results. So, yeah, it's a thing.

  • I love every byte of this WIRED headline: You May Get More EV Options Thanks to Tougher Emissions Rules.

    Automakers have made plenty of promises about electric vehicles. General Motors, Ford, and Volvo—some of the more ambitious—have pledged to sell only zero-emission cars by at least 2035. That’s quite a commitment, as only 14 percent of new cars sold globally last year were electric, with the share in the US being half that.

    But a new proposal released by the US Environmental Protection Agency today threatens to hold automakers to their electric big talk—and to up the ante. The agency suggested tighter emissions standards that it calculates would require electric vehicles to make up two-thirds of new passenger vehicle sales by 2032, sending millions more EVs onto dealership lots. It also wants to toughen standards for heavy trucks, albeit less aggressively.

    Orwell would be proud, I guess: you get "more options" when government takes away your options to do anything else. And ("thanks") you are expected to be grateful.

  • At Ars Technica (which is, like WIRED, part of the Condé Nast empire), I learned that Entangled superpowers cause portal-jumping havoc in The Marvels teaser.

    Remember Ms. Marvel's end credits scene, where Brie Larson's Captain Marvel suddenly appears in Kamala Khan's (Iman Vellani) bedroom, while Kamala finds herself on a spaceship with Goose (the cat that's really a Flerken)? Judging by a newly released teaser, that scene will lead directly into The Marvels, the sequel to 2019's Captain Marvel. It's part of Phase Five of the MCU, and the film is directed by Nia DaCosta (Candyman).

    I started reading… then realized I didn't care about any of that.

    It seems, at age 71.94, I've finally become a non-fanboy.

Last Modified 2024-01-30 6:11 AM EDT

In the Mail


I must admit I was briefly intrigued by the logo on a bit of today's mail:

[Relief at last!]

Relief at last!

Alas, I was quickly disabused on a complete view:

[The Whole Story]

It turns out they are not offering relief from the actual national debt. I'd love to see that plan. Instead they're aiming their pitch at folks like Lindsay, Single Working Mom.

And their game seems to be debt consolidation: they pay off your creditors, you pay them off over that multi-year period they pitch, hopefully at a lower interest rate. It probably wouldn't work for Uncle Stupid.

Although it probably wouldn't hurt if every single member of Congress were to ask them for help. I assume that National Debt Relief is pretty good at explaining the fiscal facts of life to utterly irresponsible borrowers.

Last Modified 2024-01-30 6:11 AM EDT

The Price of Time

The Real Story of Interest

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

The author, Edward Chancellor, is a financial journalist. But this is every bit a scholarly work, laden with footnotes and references, its scope sweeping in both time and space. It's also very opinionated, arguing a point of view that (a) is very compatible with my own; and (b) underappreciated by the world at large.

It's about interest. And isn't it funny that a topic that a lot of people would find boring is called "interest"?

Chancellor's history goes back a long way. He argues that interest, as an economic phenomenon, actually predates the invention of money. (And also the wheel.) How? Well, if you lent out some breeding livestock to a customer, you would expect to be repaid, after a time, with more livestock. And this is reflected today in our language: "Our word capital comes from caput, a head of cattle."

Obviously, from the title, Chancellor argues that interest is "the price of time". And (further) argues that imposing a rate of interest on an economy is conceptually no different from price controls on any other good or service. Which means you're just begging for trouble down the road: accordant distortions, gluts, and shortages. But (historically and currently) the predominant mistake with interest rates is in setting them too low. This causes capital investors to desperately seek out better returns elsewhere, which causes no end of trouble, like bubbles. (Hey, anyone remember Gamestop?) Chancellor convincingly argues that too-low rates encourage monopoly and oligopoly, as people already in the "tippy top" of the economic pyramid are in the best position to reap gains from other peoples' malinvestment.

Chancellor at times sounds as if he's a Sanders/Warren class warrior, railing about "inequality". But he's not, really. Page 299:

Most commentaries on inequality discuss it as a question of degree, but not all inequality is created equal. In fact, development economists distinguish between "good" and "bad" inequality. Good inequality fosters economic growth by providing incentives for people to improve their lot, whereas bad inequality benefits a particular class (rent-seekers). Good inequality grows the economic pie, whereas bad inequality is associated with stagnation. Unconventional monetary policies have fostered the worst kind of inequality.

Obviously, Chancellor's no fan of the Fed's recent history.

The history here is of varying degrees of interest (heh), but there are occasional fascinating details. Montagu Norman, onetime Governor of the Bank of England, is called "eccentric." Well, he was once a patient of Carl Jung. He was given to showing up "in his trademark velvet cape and wide-brimmed soft hat." And he was best buds with Hjalmar Schacht, president of Germany's Reichsbank. In fact, they "often enjoyed holidays together, booking into resort hotels under assumed names, so as not to attract attention."


Well, if Jerome Powell starts showing up in Congressional hearings in a velvet cape and a wide-brimmed soft hat, it might be time to worry a bit more than you already are.

But (I admit) sometimes the history can get a little tedious; I sometimes go into "look at every page" reading mode when things get too sluggish; at some points here, I dropped below that, searching for paragraphs that I might be interested in reading.

But overall, Chancellor is on the side of the angels. He approvingly quotes Hayek throughout. In fact, his conclusion chapter is subtitled "The New Road to Serfdom". Which (to a Hayek fan like me) is both gratifying and extremely worrying.

Last Modified 2024-01-13 12:58 PM EDT

Sailing Into the Mystic

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

How tempting is our Amazon Product du Jour? A mere $4.99 for the Kindle version! Description:

The Neanderthals had brow ridges to keep the sun out of their eyes, but why don't we? When a leading scientist walked into a wall and broke his nose, he decided to find out. In this fascinating and wide-ranging book, Dr. Ellis Silver examines the evidence that's all around us ... and discovers that we evolved on a world distinctly different from the one we live on today.

Just about everything on the Amazon page is wonderful. The author's bio contains:

He is fascinated by our human origins, has amassed a wealth of evidence which proves we couldn't possibly have evolved on Earth, and has had the privilege of meeting one extraterrestrial and one alien-human hybrid - neither of which he had expected to meet, and he curses his luck that he didn't have a camera with him.

People meeting ETs never have their cameras with them, do they? (Let alone alien-human hybrids. Hey, like Spock!) (Hm, could Silver have simply wandered into a cosplay session at a Star Trek convention?)

But I discovered that product while searching out appropriate eye candy for today's actual topic springboard, which is a Quillette essay from theoretical physicist Lawrence M. Krauss, entitled Astrobiology: The Rise and Fall of a Nascent Science.

Astrobiology, we hardly knew ye.

Need a definition? According to this NASA page: "Astrobiology is the study of the origin, evolution, and distribution of life in the universe." And their intro is kind of a downer:

Ask most anyone whether life exists on other planets and moons, and the answer you’ll get is a confident “yes!” Going back decades (and in many ways generations), we’ve been introduced to a menagerie of extraterrestrials good and bad. Their presence suffuses our entertainment and culture, and we humans seem to have an almost innate belief-or is it a hope-that we are not alone in the universe.

But that extraterrestrial presence on regular display is, of course, a fiction. No life beyond Earth has ever been found; there is no evidence that alien life has ever visited our planet. It’s all a story.

"Innate belief". "Hope". "All a story". Are you beginning to see a problem?

NASA confirms an observation I've made before: there are a lot of people who want to believe. Not just in life "out there" but intelligent life. They have a deep emotional longing for supporting evidence, which is so far totally absent. (Unless, of course, you are Ellis Silver PhD.) Sober analysis is described as "heartbreaking" and "crushing".

Science can stil happen in the field (see that NASA page), but as Krauss says:

So why on Earth, or, rather, why in the Milky Way would I cast any aspersions on this emerging field of science? The problem is that it is an emerging field, and that implies three important things: (1) the development and use of rigorous scientific standards characteristic of more mature fields has not yet been universally established; (2) unfounded claims are too often made, and they gain support in the popular press; and (3) small groups of ideologically driven researchers can have, and have had, an inordinately large impact, hindering progress and potentially pushing the field backwards.

Krauss, being an actual scientist, has evidence of all three. But let's look at that third issue:

The first inkling of the emerging emphasis of ideology over science in astrobiology came from the support by so many members of that community for the protests against the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. In 2000, the National Academies of Science had identified the project as a top priority for the US astronomy community, and they  recommended that it be built within the decade. Almost immediately, after the dormant volcano Mauna Kea had been selected as the proposed site, local protests began. In spite of the fact that Mauna Kea is the most sacred mountain in Hawaiian religion and culture and was known to Native Hawaiians as the home of Wakea, the sky god, numerous large telescopes had already previously been built on the mountain. Conflict between the priorities of the scientific community and Indigenous religious myths, which had erupted from time to time in the past in Hawaii, escalated after the construction of TMT was set to begin.

While the conflict between science and religious myth is ubiquitous, as witnessed most recently by efforts in New Zealand to teach “Indigenous Knowledge” on the same level as science in high schools, one might have expected the scientific community to support the TMT project more or less unanimously. However, a new generation of young astronomy activists has begun online efforts using the hashtag #ScientistsforMaunaKea, and they consider protecting the sacred nature of the mountain to be more important than the possible scientific benefits of this trailblazing project.

Among those scientists is Pun Salad favorite, Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, on the physics faculty at the University Near Here. A sample of her output on the topic:

In The Disordered Cosmos, I write about how the fight for the Mauna was life altering for me and has shifted my view on what science was and what science needs to be. Often framed as anti-science spiritualists, the kiaʻi are not just fighting to protect the Mauna from further desecration but also to transition from a colonial scientific practice to an ethical science, as Keolu Fox and I argued in The Nation. I think the piece that first really opened my mind about this was Bryan Kamaoli Kuwada’s “We Live in the Future. Come Join us.” where he writes:

That short-sighted model of “progress”—that we seem to be standing in the way of—hinges upon all of us, all of Hawaiʻi’s people, all of the Pacific’s people, all of the world’s people losing connection to land, to sea, to other human beings. The less you feel these connections, the easier it is for you to be convinced that unrestricted development is the highest and best use of land.

Part of what Bryan is writing about is the idea colonialist, racist idea that kānaka are backwards people who, by refusing the telescope and its potential economic gains, are refusing progress and inclusion in modernity. But who is really backwards here? It is in thinking with the kiaʻi and kanaka intellectuals that I came to fully understand that global warming is a technological development. Is that progress? Is modern life successful in a globally warmed world? Maybe technology isn’t actually synonymous with progress. A more modern viewpoint of the land is the one articulated by kanaka ways of seeing the world, understanding our interdependence on the land, our family.

My guess is that actual science might be carried out in astrobiology. Just maybe not in this country, thanks to scientists like Chanda Prescod-Weinstein and Ellis Silver. There's way too much woo-woo afoot here.

Last Modified 2024-01-13 12:58 PM EDT

The Phony Campaign

Easter 2023 Update

It's been a volatile week for the long shots at Election Betting Odds. Nikki and Mayor Pete have dropped below our p ≥ 2% inclusion criterion and Governor Gavin has risen above it.

Go figure.

And "Other"—the number we calculate to get the probabilities to add up to 100%—is now doing better than Governor Ron. That has to sting a little, doesn't it?

But there's good news, Ron: Google is convinced that you are, once again by far, the phoniest candidate, beating a certain recently indicted former president by nearly a 4-to-1 margin.

Candidate EBO Win
Hit Count
Ron DeSantis 16.7% -1.3% 4,580,000 -2,940,000
Donald Trump 25.9% +0.3% 1,160,000 -1,010,000
Joe Biden 33.6% +0.5% 413,000 -213,000
Kamala Harris 3.1% +0.3% 108,000 -20,000
Gavin Newsom 2.2% --- 48,500 ---
Other 18.5% +2.3% --- ---

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

  • I'm sure this is not what they mean when they say someone has an "infectious" laugh. Elle Purnell of the Federalist reports that Biden Is Creepily Laughing At Inappropriate Times, Like Kamala. Example:

    After a shooter who appears to have identified as transgender shot six people, including three 9-year-old children, at a Christian school in what police confirmed was a “targeted attack,” Biden laughed off a reporter’s queries about whether the attack was a hate crime against Christians.

    “Do you believe that Christians were targeted in the Nashville school shooting?” a reporter asked.

    “I have no idea,” Biden responded.

    “Josh Hawley believes they were,” the reporter noted, referring to the Missouri senator’s demands that the FBI investigate the shooting as a hate crime. “What do you say to that?”

    “Well, I probably don’t, then,” Biden retorted before breaking into a grin and chuckling. “No, I’m joking.”

    "Hah. I crack me up." Tweeted video:

  • Patrick Frey (aka Patterico) appears at the Dispatch, trying to find the pony in all the horseshit: A Modest Case for the Case Against Trump.

    The merits of prosecuting Donald Trump for hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels were debated even before the indictment came down, and that debate certainly hasn’t cooled since Trump appeared in court Tuesday. The most illuminating document, though, is not the indictment itself but the statement of facts in support of the indictment. That statement of facts describes a case that, depending on the quality of the evidence offered to support it, may be stronger than many critics think.

    It depends. It may be. Not exactly going out on a limb here, folks. But Frey is an actual lawyer, and I am not, so…

  • CBS News headline: Early DeSantis supporters exhibit Trump fatigue: "I wish he would kind of enjoy retirement". But not everyone feels that way. Not Debbie Dooley, for example:

    "If Donald Trump is not the nominee, I will vote third party. I will not vote — Ron DeSantis — I wouldn't vote for him for anything," said Debbie Dooley, an ambassador for the "Veterans for Trump" group that gathered in the parking lot outside DeSantis' event in Georgia.

    Dooley was once a fan of DeSantis, and wrote his name in for governor in the 2022 primary and general election. But on Thursday in Georgia, she was wearing a t-shirt that said "ULTRA MAGA" and brought a makeshift poster featuring news clips of Trump's attacks towards DeSantis. "He is phony, and he is fake," Dooley said of DeSantis. 

    Not that it matters, but Debbie Dooley has her own Politifact page, although the newest entry is nearly eight years old.

  • In honor of Gavin Newsom's reappearance in our poll, let's look at a WSJ editorial: California Adds Fuel to a Gasoline Refiners’ Fire.

    A majority of Californians tell pollsters they don’t want Gov. Gavin Newsom to run for President. Maybe they think he’s pushing destructive progressive policies to promote his national ambitions, such as the law he signed last week to punish oil refiners.

    The law establishes a new state bureaucracy empowered to cap gasoline refining profits. If refiners’ profits exceed the cap, they will pay a penalty, which will go into a special fund that legislators could use to “address any consequences of price gouging on Californians.” This is a fund for Democrats to buy votes.

    The WSJ says California gas prices average $4.83/gallon, and they describe the state policies responsible. Scapegoating refiners is… well, phony.

    The pic accompanying the editorial:

    [Phony Gavin]

    I'm probably biased, but that just screams "phony" to me.

Last Modified 2024-01-30 6:11 AM EDT

Those Violent Christians

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NHJournal brings us up to date on the imbroglio at a branch of the University Near Here: Christian Student Orgs Under Fire at UNH Law.

A Christian student organization has filed a complaint with the federal Department of Education over alleged unfair treatment on the campus of UNH Law School, largely at the hands of their fellow students who want the group shut down. Another group is facing protests over an email invitation to a vigil for the victims of the mass shooting at a Christian school.

Many details offered at the link, but I want to concentrate on this point of controversy:

UNH Law students marched in protest last week over an email from the school’s Christian Legal Society calling for a vigil in the wake of the March 27 shooting at a Christian elementary school in Nashville, Tenn. The invite included details about the attack, noting the school shooter was a transgender person who intentionally targeted Christians.

“Nashville school shooter Audrey Hale identified as transgender and had a detailed manifesto to attack the Christian academy. By all accounts, this terrorist attack on a Christian school was motivated by anti-Christian hate,” the Christian Legal Society invitation stated.

In fact, the contents of Hale’s manifesto or the nine journals police found at Hale’s home have not been publicly disclosed.

The email went on to reference rising violent rhetoric coming from those in, and aligned with, the transgender community, often directed at Christians and used to intimidate people who disagree.

“Unfortunately, these tactics and rhetoric are not isolated to the national conversation. At UNH Law, students and others have similarly maligned Christian students and CLS as bigoted, hateful, or unfit for public recognition or acceptance,” the invitation stated. “If this tragedy was animated by such ideas and rhetoric, there needs to be much soul-searching by those who endorse similar ideas. Giving into these ideas is not compassionate; it is dangerous.”

Now remember: we are talking about students at a law school.

Speculation about the Nashville killer's motive is understandable, but speculation in the absence of actual evidence is a bad look for wannabe lawyers.

And, generally, it's an equally bad look to characterize activities of your fellow students as "dangerous". (In the absence of any actual danger, wouldn't "stupid" be more accurate?)

But it gets worse. Much worse [bold added]:

Some students complained to UNH administrators and urged them to take action against the CLS. When the administration refused, citing First Amendment protections, students staged a walkout, chanting, “UNH stands against hate!”

These statements were violent, and the university has only had quiet responses up until this point,” said law student Sydney Reyes in the Concord Monitor. “Without recognizing what has been experienced on campus as violent, I don’t think quiet responses are addressing it; it’s time to be loud.”

Yes, other students are claiming that statements are not just dangerous, but "violent." Law students.

What the heck are they teaching these kids at UNH Law? Anything at all about the First Amendment and how it applies to public universities?

Also quoted in the Concord Monitor story linked above is "AhLana Ames, student and member of the queer community."

“CLS is hijacking a senseless tragedy to spread their bigoted agenda an it’s incredibly heartbreaking to know that there are people on this campus who, in less than 48 hours, took the tragic death of six people and spun it to progress [sic] their twisted narratives that directly impact queer lives on and off campus. […] I think the focus on the shooter’s identity is unhelpful, regardless of whether the shooter was trans,” Ames said. “By focusing on the shooter, the spotlight is removed away from the victims and the impacted community, further taking the conversation away from the real issue: gun control.”

In other words: How dare CLS "hijack" this senseless tragedy to talk about the shooter, when I want to hijack this senseless tragedy to talk about gun control?

Briefly noted:

  • Bryan Caplan shares something he often thinks, but doesn't actually say: "I Can’t Help but Feel Like You’re Trying to Intimidate Me Into Pretending to Agree with You."

    It’s what I think whenever I hear about “mandatory training.”

    It’s what I think when K-12 schools announce their “teaching philosophy.”

    It’s what I think when universities comment on what does and does not “align with their values.”

    It’s what I think when someone continues an argument after angrily refusing to bet.

    And it's pretty much something I never think, because I never find myself in those situations. But in case it helps you…

  • Ilya Somin has a language issue: Libertarianism vs. Classical Liberalism: Is there a Difference?.

    I've [long] thought that these are different terms for essentially the same thing (the branch of liberalism advocating very tight limits on government power across the board), and that the difference between them is primarily aesthetic. Thus, I've always preferred "libertarian" because it's easier to say and remember, sounds better, and is more widely known. But there are a wide range of theories about the difference between the two. And it's hard for me to say for sure which (if any) are correct.

    Somin goes on to offer six different possible distinguishing tests.

    I'm going with "libertarian" on even-numbered days, "classical liberal" on odd days. But what about plain old "conservative"? OK, so "conservative" on days divisible by three, …

    Maybe I should sign up with No Labels?

    We are a national movement of commonsense Americans pushing our leaders together to solve our country's biggest problems.

    Eeeesh. They may be "No Labels", but they are an emphatic "Yes!" to anodyne clichés. So no thank you.

  • Peter Suderman calls a technical foul: Blue States Are Trying To Impose Wealth Taxes. They Won't Work..

    Back in the pre-COVID days of 2019, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) proposed an annual "wealth tax" of 2 percent on assets for households worth more than $50 million, plus additional surtaxes on households worth $1 billion or more. There were several problems with the idea.

    Such a tax would be incredibly difficult to administer, requiring tax authorities to regularly assess and value unusual assets like art collections. It might drive wealthy individuals and households to move their holdings to other countries with more favorable tax policies, as has happened in multiple countries. Most wealthy Western democracies that have experimented with wealth taxes eventually ended them.

    Warren pitched her plan as a way to make the "tippy top 0.1% of U.S. households" pay "their fair share," providing revenue to "accelerate badly needed investments in the middle class." But a wealth tax was not a novel way to tax the rich; it was a dodgy policy that had been repeatedly tried and repeatedly failed.

    But it appealz-to-the-feelz of a certain mindset.

  • In our "Bad Quote" Department, Scott Drylie reveals How Progressives Transformed Edmund Burke into a Supporter of Public Education.

    ‘Education is the cheap defense of nations.” This statement graces old books of aphorisms and is engraved on more than one public-school building. It is a kind of creed for public education.

    It intends to say that a nation need not focus on robust police forces, standing armies, and heavy-handed judicial systems for peace and security. A simple investment in public education will protect the nation from faction, enthusiasm, and violence.

    Edmund Burke, Anglo-Irish statesman and philosopher, is given attribution for these words, for example, here and here. Burke is best known for his Reflections on the Revolution in France, where he disapproved of radical reform, triggering debates with Thomas Paine and others.

    A plain old Google search confirms Drylie's observation.

    But, no, not something that Eddie ever said, as it happens.

Last Modified 2024-01-13 12:58 PM EDT

The Bullet That Missed

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This is the third entry in Richard Osman's "Thursday Murder Club" series. It's predictably funny, and (somewhat surprisingly) warm and sentimental at the same time. Prospective readers will want to check out the first two volumes before reading this one; a number of characters from previous books are brought back. And a pile of new characters are introduced.

But it starts out simply enough. The four core members of the TMC (Elizabeth, Joyce, Ibrahim, Ron) decide to investigate an old unsolved case: the (apparent) murder, years ago, of TV investigative reporter Bethany Waites. She was investigating a massive fraud involving evasion of the Value Added Tax, to the tune of millions of pounds. (Value Added Tax? Pounds? It's British stuff.) Her last communication promised a breakthrough that was "absolute dynamite". And then her car was found at the bottom of a tall cliff.

Plus which, Elizabeth and her senile husband Stephen are abducted on a walk, taken to see the "Viking". Who demands that Elizabeth use her Bond-like spy skills to kill an old adversary, Viktor, a one-time KGB kingpin. And if Elizabeth declines, the Viking promises to murder… Joyce! Quite the pickle.

These two plot threads interact in unexpected ways.

It seems a movie is in the works. Nobody asked me, but I continue to see Judi Dench as Elizabeth and Penelope Wilton as Joyce. (Joyce is described as "tiny", Penelope Wilton is not, but I don't care.)

Last Modified 2024-01-13 12:58 PM EDT

Just Say No To "Doing Something"

A short video from Reason asks Do 'More Guns Lead To More Deaths'?

There's a text version at the link, if you'd prefer that.

Recent school shootings—like the one last year in Uvalde, Texas, where law enforcement officials not only did nothing to prevent an active shooter but restrained parents trying to rescue their children—underscore that police need better and more effective training. The 2018 school shooting in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida drove home how many red flags school staff, law enforcement, and social workers had ignored.

To simply say that the people in charge of school safety need to do better is deeply unsatisfying, but it might be the best option, especially if the rush to "do something" means trying something that we already know is impossible, ineffective, or both.

Briefly noted:

  • Victor Davis Hanson looks at claims that "no one is above the law" and asks the musical question: Indict One—And All?.

    [W]hat crime did Trump not do that others did with either impunity or without being arrested? Here is a sample of 20.

    1. Trump did not violate federal law, as did Hillary Clinton, by destroying federally subpoenaed emails and devices in order to hide evidence.
    2. Trump did not violate federal law, as did Hillary Clinton, by sending classified government communications on her own, through an unsecured home-brewed server.
    3. Trump did not violate federal law, as did Hillary Clinton, by hiring—through three paywalls—a foreign national, who is prohibited from working on presidential campaigns, to compile a dossier to smear her presidential opponent.
    4. Trump did not violate federal campaign laws, as did Hillary Clinton, by hiding her payments (as “legal services”) to Christopher Steele through bookkeeping deceptions.

    Well, we will stop there, but as VDH notes, he's got 16 more.

    Arresting them all seems like a sensible and prudent path.

  • We've been skeptical here at Pun Salad about "Red Flag" laws, but Veronique de Rugy points out that there should be some in a different area: More Entitlement Red Flags as Politicians Tout Inaction.

    Republicans and Democrats have been tripping over each other to tell voters how committed they are to making zero changes to Social Security and Medicare. Meanwhile, the Social Security and Medicare Trustees just confirmed yet again that within 10 years the programs' funds will be insolvent.

    It's hard to forget the scene during the most recent State of the Union address, when President Joe Biden accused Republicans of wanting to cut Social Security and Medicare and Republicans — including one who shouted from her seat — called that a lie. The mutual refusal to take responsibility for the nasty fiscal condition of entitlement programs is decades old. Indeed, the findings of the Trustees' report are not surprising to anyone who follows these programs' finances.

    Social Security, readers might remember, has been relying on its trust funds' IOU since 2010 to fully pay for retirees' benefits. Assets are running low and will be gone by 2033. When that happens, it won't be authorized to make the entirety of these payments — only the amount it collects in payroll taxes. That's a 23% cut. You can tell a similar story about the Hospital Insurance Trust Fund for Medicare. By 2031, the program will be insolvent, and benefits will be cut by 11%. That's an understatement since the solvency calculations exclude Medicare's physician (Part B) and drug (Part D) programs, which face a $1 trillion shortfall over the next decade.

    Effective fixes can only happen if CongressCritters and the President start acting like responsible adults.

    So don't hold your breath waiting on that to happen.

  • Kevin D. Williamson writes on Dominion Voting Systems' lawsuit against Fox News: Malice Toward All?.

    The case would have made the late Tom Wolfe throw away his fountain pen and declare satire a thing of the past. Beyond the imbecilic stories about Venezuelan hackers and the predictable George Soros stuff, Fox News hosts such as Maria Bartiromo sat there nodding like well-dosed junkies while Trump campaign attorney Sidney Powell put forward a series of fantastical claims that were based in part—this is the part you cannot make up—on an anonymous email from a source who at times claimed to be a ghost and at other times said she received the information in dreams and visions. “I was internally decapitated, and yet, I live,” the ghost said. Not all of the ghost’s stories made it on the air: The same source apparently claimed that the late Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia had been killed during a human-hunting expedition organized by the Bohemian Club and that Roger Ailes spent the 2020 election season plotting against the president in spite of his being inconveniently dead since 2017. 

    One of the legal terms of art that comes up in determining “actual malice” in a libel or defamation case is “reckless disregard for the truth.” I am a former newspaper editor, not a lawyer, but if a reporter had brought me a piece and the source was a [profane 13-letter participle adjective deleted] ghost, I would fire that reporter on the spot, lament that in these civilized times I could not throw him out the [same participle] window, and write “RECKLESS DISREGARD FOR THE TRUTH” on the HR paperwork. 

    I found myself spelling out a word, counting to 13 on my fingers… yeah, probably he meant that one.

  • Over the past few days, I've been ranting about people who demand we "Do Something". Closely related is a term that's a burr under Christian Schneider's saddle: We Need a National Conversation about National Conversations. A slice:

    One need not be online long to bump one’s head on a call for a national conversation. Topics recently deemed worthy of the nation’s undivided attention include race, abortion, the Oscars, mental health, guns, high-speed rail, wildfires, reparations, pit bulls, drinking during the pandemic, obesity, and football. (It would be tough for us Americans to all talk at once about obesity while stuffing our mouths with sandwiches that use fried chicken patties as bread.)


    If, following William Safire’s advice, clichés are to be avoided like the plague, one must then stay off the internet, as the online world is a wet market of hackneyed platitudes. In the case of calls for a national conversation, the cliché substitutes for an argument. Calling for an issue to be the topic of every coffeehouse discussion conveys that an issue is too serious for regular Americans to ignore. It’s assumed that the issue is of paramount importance, and who would question that?

    I demand we do something about people who demand national conversations. Obvs.

No Sooner Do I Rant About "Do Something" Pleas…

yesterday than this envelope arrives in the mail:

[Money, Please]

I know sometimes people black out their addresses, but I say: "If the Catholic League, knows my address, I guess the secret is out."

I would normally feed the unopened envelope straight into the shredder, but just to confirm my suspicion, I opened it, and, yep, "doing something" means…

[Pay Up, Sucker]

… sending them money.

Just to be clear, I'm as pro-Catholic as it's possible for a Very Poor Lutheran with a Catholic wife, a son who's Music Director for the local Catholic parish, and a daughter who… well, graduated from a Catholic high school anyway.

Briefly noted:

  • Piling on to my fisking of a recent gun-control "do something" editorial column in my local paper, NHJournal gets in on the fun: Stefany Shaheen Calls for Mass Gun Confiscation In Wake of Nashville School Shooting.

    Shaheen, a children’s book author who chairs the city commission that oversees the police department, is staking out political ground by advocating a ban on the sale of most guns found in New Hampshire sporting goods stores. And gun confiscation — the “mandatory buyback” of privately owned weapons by the government — is such a political hot button that even aggressive anti-gun groups like Giffords and Everytown have declined to embrace it.

    “The beauty of a democratic form of government is that WE [sic] the people have power,” she wrote. “Together, we can insist that those who earn our votes support safety in our schools and on our streets. We can end this vicious cycle of inaction driven by those who want us to disengage and give up.”

    Shaheen declined to respond to questions from NH Journal regarding her specific policy proposals. She also declined to answer a question about whether politicians should accept campaign donations from gun manufacturers.

    Shaheen’s mother, Sen. Jeane Shaheen, has taken at least $13,000 in direct campaign donations from New Hampshire-based gun maker Sig Sauer.

    Could it be that Stefany's unwillingness to "respond to questions" indicates that she's about to "disengage and give up"?

  • But one of Shaheen's proposals was a seemingly more-moderate one: a "national 'red flag' law". It garnered 86% support in a poll last year. Slam-dunk?

    Well, Jacob Sullum points out a problem, using one of his very long headlines: Restraining Orders Do Not Prove That People Are 'Dangerous': The Biden Administration Is Defending a Federal Law That Disarms Americans Based on 'Boilerplate Language' in Orders That Judges Routinely Grant.

    Three decades ago, Congress enacted a law that seemed commonsensical: It prohibits gun possession by people who are subject to restraining orders aimed at preventing domestic violence. But as the legal battle over that rule shows, its intuitive appeal is complicated by the reality that judges often issue such orders without any credible evidence that the respondent poses a danger.

    That policy, according to a unanimous decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, is inconsistent with the Second Amendment. Not so, says the Biden administration, which last month filed a petition asking the Supreme Court to overturn the 5th Circuit's decision.

    So we already (sorta kinda) have a national "red flag" law, and it doesn't work very well or fairly. Other than "doing something", what's the point in opening up an avenue to even wider abuse?

  • Eric Boehm notes that lunatics are now in charge of the asylum: Trump's Indictment Illustrates How the Wackos Have Hijacked Politics.

    It was always obvious that any attempt to bring former President Donald Trump to justice for any alleged crime would be a total media circus—just like most other aspects of Trump's career in politics. That finally happened on Tuesday: Trump was charged in Manhattan with 34 felonies for filing false business records. It's the first time in American history that a former president has been indicted, arraigned, and hauled before a judge to enter a "not guilty" plea.

    So the media circus surrounding Tuesday's events made perfect sense. Few other things did.

    Let's start with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who brought the charges against Trump. He thought this was the best use of his taxpayer-funded office's resources?  For weeks, there had been leaks suggesting that whatever Bragg was cooking up would be a bit outside the norm of a typical prosecution, but the charges unsealed on Tuesday look even weaker than those reports suggested.

    Also operating on the other side of the padded room was Marjorie Taylor Greene, who compared Trump to Nelson Mandela and Jesus. (Well, it's that time of year.)

  • Hot Air's David Strom brings the latest atrocity to our attention: Twitter labels NPR "State Affiliated Media;" freakout follows. Quoting this tweet:

    Clearly, Elon Musk is tweaking the news outlet, deliberately trolling them because they are Leftist snobs who think far too well of themselves.

    But just as clearly he has a point. NPR is a media mouthpiece for the Establishment, with a very cozy relationship to the government. They not only get funds from the government but work the refs there constantly to ensure the gravy train continues. Just as NPR would carefully note that a scientist got money from the tobacco companies if they quoted him, it is fair to point out that NPR, which covers the government, gets some of its funding from the people they cover.

    Judging by my listening the other day, the "state" that NPR is most affiliated with is Hamas.

Last Modified 2024-01-30 6:11 AM EDT

Do Something. Or Something Else.

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One of the surest ways to set my teeth on edge is to have someone say "We need to do something about X." Where X can be just about anything.

And of course there's an entire serious, not-a-parody website: Do Something Dot Org. And (as I type) "something" is pretty uniformly "something leftist". As I type, on the linked page, you will be told "Gun Violence is a Public Health Crisis"; instructed "How to Celebrate Trans Day of Visibility"; encouaged "Read a banned book from our list to celebrate diverse perspectives and expand your cultural awareness."

I'd speculate that the original version of Ian Fleming's From Russia With Love is not on their list of "banned books". But just try to find it in a public school library.

Wikipedia, bless it, has a page about the Politician's syllogism:

  1. We must do something.
  2. This is something.
  3. Therefore, we must do this.

"Do something" invites comparison with the Lily Tomlin quote from a half-century or so ago ("back when she was funny"), featured on our Amazon Product du Jour.

Briefly noted:

  • Speaking of innocuous slogans hiding ideological agendas…

    I'm old enough to remember the founding of "Move On Dot Org", launched back in 1998 to help Bill Clinton avoid impeachment so we could all "Move On to pressing issues facing the country."

    That was then, this is now. And now, as I type, totally without irony or self-reflection, without the slightest nod to the fact that we still have "pressing issues facing the country", MoveOn's front page is hawking free "CONVICT TRUMP" bumper stickers, with the subtitle "NO ONE IS ABOVE THE LAW".

    Also old enough to remember is Dan McLaughlin, who recalls When a Democratic President Was above the Law.

    One of the mantras of Democrats and their media voices in response to Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg’s indictment of Donald Trump has been that “no one is above the law.” That’s a fine sentiment, but there are three very big problems with Democrats making this argument: They don’t believe it, they don’t mean the same thing by “law” as the rest of us, and Alvin Bragg is about the worst possible representative for the theory that violations of the law will never be tolerated.

    In particular, I never want to hear another word — not another syllable — about how “nobody is above the law” from people who spent years on end telling us that perjury and obstruction of justice by the president should not lead to consequences because it was “just about a blow job.” I never want to hear this from people who professed to be horrified by “lock her up” chants on the theory that one should never call for jailing political opponents even when they have violated specific federal criminal statutes regarding the handling of sensitive information — least of all in defense of a prosecutor who ran for office publicly promising to go after this particular political opponent of his. I never want to hear it from people who said that the vice president could break a federal law without consequence so long as there was “no controlling legal authority” interpreting the law. I certainly do not want to hear this from people who are, even today, arguing that the president can get away with breaking the law and seizing the powers of Congress to give away half a trillion dollars of our money to his supporters so long as he can argue that nobody has standing to sue him in federal court.

    Also weighing in on that topic, David Harsanyi: No One Is Above The Law? Give Me A Break.

    Lock Donald Trump up, or don’t lock him up, but don’t tell me that “no one is above the law.” It’s one of the most ludicrous fantasies peddled by the left.

    Plenty of people are “above the law.” James Clapper, who lied under oath to Congress about spying on the American people, is above the law. John Brennan, who lied about a domestic spying operation on Senate staffers, is above the law. Unlike Trump advisor Peter Navarro, Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder was never going to be handcuffed and thrown in prison for ignoring a congressional subpoena. He is above the law.

    There's a remarkable degree of non-overlap betwen the examples offered by Harsanyi and McLaughlin. Being above the law is pretty much a heavily-Democrat thing, and examples abound.

  • But what about the solidity of that "law" that Trump is not above? Andrew C. McCarthy doesn't feel the need to play the hypocrisy game. The onetime Assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York judges that Alvin Bragg's Trump Indictment Fails as an Indictment.

    It’s always possible to be surprised. The indictment brought by Manhattan’s elected Democratic district attorney Alvin Bragg against Donald Trump is even worse than I’d imagined.

    Bragg’s indictment fails to state a crime. Not once . . . but 34 times. On that ground alone, the case should be dismissed — before one ever gets to the facts that the statute of limitations has lapsed and that Bragg has no jurisdiction to enforce federal law (if that’s what he’s trying to do, which remains murky).

    Bragg’s indictment charges 34 counts, just as we said it would, based on media reporting that clearly came from illegal leaks of grand-jury information — a crime, you can be sure, that goes in the overflowing bucket of serious offenses that Bragg refuses to prosecute.

    McCarthy convinces me that Bragg could well be a key character in a Kafka novel. You know which one.

  • George F. Will is cautiously optimistic, but not in a good way: Maybe, just maybe, this is rock bottom for embarrassing U.S. politics.

    “Wherever I have gone in this country,” said Kansas Gov. Alf Landon, the Republicans’ 1936 presidential nominee, “I have found Americans.” Time was, the nation rejected what it now needs: banal politics. Today’s embarrassments — Donald Trump, his prosecutorial adversaries, the tribalism on both sides — might be a foretaste of degradations proving that there is no rock bottom in U.S. politics.

    Before the jerry-built case brought against Trump by Manhattan’s elected Democratic District Attorney Alvin Bragg collapses, as it likely will in a courtroom, an elected Democratic prosecutor in Georgia might weigh in. And a federal prosecutor is considering Trump’s possession of classified documents in Mar-a-Lago and his possible obstruction of the investigation thereof. Trump might think: The more the merrier. Martyrdom might sell.

    Well, maybe he's not that optimistic.

  • Enough about Trump's legal worries. Walter Olson wonders: Is Proportional Representation On the Way?

    Would proportional representation be a better way of electing legislatures? This old idea, which dates back to John Stuart Mill and Nicolas de Condorcet, has been gaining ground among political scientists, commentators, and good-government groups. Protect Democracy and Unite America have released a report making the case for using proportional representation to elect the U.S. House of Representatives.

    That would be new for the U.S., which almost uniformly follows the winner-take-all norm that still typifies electoral practice in countries like Great Britain, Canada, France, and India. Most European countries, as well as Japan, employ some version of proportional representation, often as part of "mixed" systems that retain some winner-take-all elements.

    I plugged my own "proportional representation" scheme in the article comments.

  • Aaron Terr asserts that Florida Is Where the First Amendment Goes to Die. ("Also, many retirees," Pun Salad pointed out.)

    When Ron DeSantis became Florida’s governor in 2019, there was reason for optimism about an expansion of freedom of expression in the state. In April of that year, he called on Florida’s colleges and universities to adopt the “Chicago Statement.” It’s a resolution that my organization, the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), endorses as the “gold standard” of institutional commitments to free speech on campus because it establishes, for example, that "it is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive.” That move built on the progress made by passage of the state’s speech-protective Campus Free Expression Act in 2018, which codified that same principle.

    But things started to go downhill last year when Gov. DeSantis signed the “Individual Freedom” Act (more commonly known as the “Stop WOKE Act”) into law. Ironically, the law abridges individual freedom by restricting how faculty at state institutions may speak about controversial subjects like race and sex in the classroom. It lists several concepts that faculty may not “espouse” or “advance,” such as the view that an “individual, by virtue of his or her race, color, sex, or national origin, should be discriminated against or receive adverse treatment to achieve diversity, equity, or inclusion.” That could, taking just one example, make it unlawful for professors to present arguments in favor of affirmative action or reparations for slavery. Whatever one thinks of the merits of those ideas, it’s well within a professor’s academic freedom to discuss, debate, and take positions on them in class.

    I see his point. Censorship is a game any number can play. And do.

Last Modified 2024-01-13 12:57 PM EDT

Stefany Shaheen is the Chair of the Portsmouth Police Commission. Really.

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I'm breaking out the old fisking template for an editorial column carried in my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, published in the April 2 Sunday edition (when the paper is called Seacoast Sunday.) It's by Stefany Shaheen, who is the daughter of our state's senior senator, Jeanne Shaheen. And, as noted, Chair of the Portsmouth Police Commission.

Shaheen's column is reproduced on the left with a lovely #EEFFFF background color; my remarks are on the right.

As New Hampshire lowers flags to half-staff once again following the horrific violence in Nashville this week, it is hard not to feel hopeless. How many times? How many innocent lives? Our children are being gunned down at school. How often will we lower flags to honor the loss of innocence? How many more families will be forced through this nightmare? An emotional response to the horror of Nashville is proper and understandable. Panic and fear encouraged by inflammatory and overwrought rhetoric (e.g., "Our children are being gunned down at school.") is unlikely to be a useful guide for government action.

Shaheen, I am sure, knows this. Her purpose is to whip up mindless reaction, and to bully any opponents.

As we'll see.

We are the United States of America.                                                 Duh.
How is it that we have not yet figured out how to prevent 9-year-olds from being killed at school? Indeed. In fact, how is it that we have not yet figured out how to prevent any bad things from happening to anyone, anywhere, at any time?
How is it that we have not found a way to implement reasonable safety measures to keep first-graders from being shot in their classroom with automatic assault weapons that can unload 90 bullets in 10 seconds. 90 bullets in 10 seconds! The Nashville murderer didn't use an "automatic" assault weapon. CNN reports the weaponry was "an AR-15 military-style rifle, a 9 mm Kel-Tec SUB2000 pistol caliber carbine, and a 9 mm Smith and Wesson M&P Shield EZ 2.0 handgun." All semi-automatic.

Even less detached from reality is Shaheen's claim that the weapons were capable of firing "90 bullets in 10 seconds!" While from recent news reports , the shooter did manage to fire off 152 rounds over the 14-minute spree. That's enough for plenty of carnage, but it averages to about 0.18 rounds/second, a factor of 50 below Shaheen's figure. This also, apparently, includes the rounds the shooter expended on the school's locked glass doors in order to gain entry.

[Not that it matters, but I can't help but notice the considerable pronoun confusion in describing the murderer. The Metropolitan Nashville PD report issued yesterday uses "she" and "her" uniformly. The linked Daily Beast story, when quoting the report, replaces its usage of "her" with "[their]" and otherwise uses "he" and "his" throughout. The CNN story linked above quotes one person using "their" and a different person saying "she", otherwise clumsily avoiding pronouns altogether.]

Where does Shaheen's "90 bullets in 10 seconds!" come from? Apparently from estimates of the firing rate of the Las Vegas shooter back in 2017, who used bump stocks.

Bump stocks have been illegal "for almost all US civilians" since 2019. The legality of that regulation, promulgated by the Trump Administration, is dubious; a matter that will probably be settled by SCOTUS.

Either way, Shaheen uses a scary, but not particularly relevant, number to appeal to emotion.

The cycle of outrage and avoidance and blame is maddening. It makes us lose trust and confidence in our institutions. Democracy demands an active and engaged citizenry to thrive, but forces are at work eroding and seeking to dismantle the very systems Americans built to do things like educate our children and keep them safe. This erosion of trust combined with the spread of misinformation and polarization leads to inaction and hopelessness. It is designed to prevent progress and change — especially when that change is desperately needed. Ah, now we're getting to it. Since there are obvious and easy "systems" designed to "educate our children and keep them safe", the only problem must be dark and sinister (albeit unnamed) "forces"! They are "at work"! They're "eroding" our trust!

And, worse: all that erosion and misinformation and polarization? It's all "designed"! These deplorable folks actually want to make kids unsafe!

It's a demonic conspiracy, I tells ya!

One of the primary roles of government is to keep people safe. We invest considerable tax dollars to ensure our national defense and public safety. And yet, GUNS ARE NOW THE LEADING CAUSE OF DEATH FOR CHILDREN in the United States.

Woo, uppercase. Always an indicator of reasoned analysis.

Well, first: As (even) Snopes notes, you have to put a lot of asterisks on that claim. The most recent numbers are from 2020 and 2021, so the "NOW" claim is problematic. And it's true only if you exclude very young children (under 1 year old). And you need to include 18 and 19 year olds as "children". You need to mix together suicides and accidents with the homicides.

And: you can't count abortions. Which kills off a lot of kids before they even get to zero.

But the ultimate misdirection is claiming "GUNS" as the "CAUSE" of death. Neatly eliminating the trigger-puller. This (as I've said before) is fetishism : imagining inanimate objects with a magical will of their own.

We have the power and ability to address this public safety crisis. There are reasonable measures that we can take to stem the tide of these horrendous deaths. And the encouraging news is that most Americans support:

• Background checks for private and gun show sales.

• A national “red flag” law.

• Requiring a license before gun purchase.

• Banning the sale of high-capacity magazines.

• Banning the sale of semi-automatic weapons.

• A mandatory assault weapon buyback program.

Unsurprisingly, a lot of bans, mandates, and prohibitions. The arguments against are well known, and I won't detail them here. But in general: Shaheen proposes, with a straight face, to take the failed tactics of the War on Drugs (and, before that, Prohibition) and use them against guns, too.
The beauty of a democratic form of government is that WE the people have power. Together, we can insist that those who earn our votes support safety in our schools and on our streets. We can put an end to this vicious cycle of inaction driven by those who want us to disengage and give up. Again, Shaheen invokes those shadowy conspirators who "want us to disengage and give up".

I'll point out that "WE the people" had a chance to support Beto "Hell yes, we're going to take your AR-15, your AK-47." O'Rourke in the 2020 presidential campaign, his proposals including that mandatory buyback thing. Beto couldn't even sell that as a winning position among Democrats, and dropped out before the New Hampshire Primary.

Yes, we the people have power, and that includes the power to say "no, thanks."

We can do this, and we must do this because frankly, it is up to us. What the 376 school shootings have demonstrated since Columbine in 1999 is that this cannot be done by an individual leader or political party. The challenge ahead is one that requires every single one of us to take a hard look at those running for public office and cast our votes accordingly. VOTE. And make support for reasonable public safety measures a litmus test for your vote. Honor the innocent lives lost not only by lowering the American flag to half-staff, but by demanding that it represent the change we desperately need to see in the world. I wish Shaheen the same success with her "litmus test" that it has had in the past. I only wish she'd explicitly advocate what she really wants: a de facto repeal of the Second Amendment.

OK, so I'm all better now.

Last Modified 2024-01-13 12:57 PM EDT

And It's Too Big To Fit in an Overhead Bin


[Baggage] I recommend clicking over for a big version.

Briefly noted:

  • Bjørn "Don't forget to slash the o" Lomborg has the cover story in the latest National Review: Life after Climate Change.

    Speaking sweet reason in paragraph one:

    The global discussion about climate change has become quite hysterical. Some 60 percent of people living in the rich world think it is likely to bring an end to humanity. This is not only untrue; it is also harmful, because fear makes people embrace bad policies and ignore many other urgent challenges facing the world. Consider, for example, how the World Health Organization declared climate change the defining public-health issue of the 21st century in 2014, but perhaps should have been more focused on pandemics, like Covid. Or take the World Economic Forum participants who in January 2020 found the greatest policy risk of the next ten years to be climate-action failure — ignoring the rapid spread of Covid. Or consider how development institutions increasingly focus on helping poor countries with climate-change responses, often at the expense of other things those countries urgently need, such as growth and development, stronger health-care systems, better education, and a more plentiful energy supply.

    It's behind the NR paywall. I'd suggest subscribing.

  • Our continuing series on the linguistic front, with Jeff Jacoby weighing in: Woke is easy to define. It's harder to fight..

    SOME PROGRESSIVE commentators have put on a show lately of being baffled by what Republicans or conservatives mean when they use the term "woke" or "wokeness" to refer to left-wing identity politics.

    A momentary brain freeze by a young conservative writer who stumbled when she was asked on camera to define the term unleashed an avalanche of mockery on the left. "Conservatives have no clue what 'woke' means — and they don't care" was the headline over a lengthy attack piece in the San Francisco Chronicle. Time magazine assured its readers that when Republicans criticize something for being "woke," they are actually sounding a racial dog whistle. A writer for The Hill wagged a finger at the "the GOP's misguided 'woke police,'" who, he claimed, deride progressive efforts to "confront problems like racism, poverty, environmental ruin, and climate change." The Washington Post's Philip Bump declared disdainfully that "'woke' simply describes anything that is inherently alarming to the right."

    In truth, "woke" isn't hard to define at all. In its most focused sense, it is the belief that America's social and political institutions are engines of racism, sexism, homophobia, and other forms of persecution and that virtually all invidious gaps or distinctions between groups can be explained by such oppression. More broadly, it is the illiberal insistence that group identity and grievances trump freedom of thought and honest debate. In the woke zeitgeist, anyone who prioritizes traditional liberal values, such as merit or colorblindness, over "equity" — i.e., proportionately equal outcomes for every group, regardless of credentials, experience, or performance — is part of the oppressive hierarchy that needs to be demolished.

    There, that wasn't too difficult, was it?

  • At the Josiah Bartlett Center, Drew Cline is ready to ride and spread the alarm to every Hillsborough village and town: The rich folks are coming! The rich folks are coming!.

    Last November, Massachusetts voters approved a so-called “millionaire’s tax.” It raises the state income tax from 5% to 9% for incomes of $1 million or more, an 80% tax increase.

    Four months later, the Massachusetts Society of Certified Public Accountants is sounding an alarm.

    After surveying 270 member CPAs, the society in March released a paper titled “Massachusetts is Losing Residents and it’s Getting Worse: Can Tax Policy Changes Mitigate Outmigration?”

    Drew suggests that New Hampshire (further) encourage Mass Millionaires to jump the border by speeding up the phase-out of the Interest & Dividends Tax. I'm in favor!

  • Baseball's back, baby! And, judged by the first three games, the Red Sox are returning to their decades-old strategy of explosive offense and iffy pitching.

    And at Reason, Matt Welch celebrates The Expensive Nostalgia of 'Field of Dreams'.

    Ask a full-grown man why he's choking back tears at the mere mention of the 1989 baseball fable Field of Dreams, and he is almost certain to cite the film's famous final scene, in which 33-year-old Kevin Costner, voice at once hopefully boyish and soggy with the emotionalism of looming middle age, says to an anachronistically clad young ballplayer, "Hey, Dad? You wanna have a catch?"

    While technically the answer to a series of supernatural riddles—at the movie's outset, Costner's character, Ray Kinsella, hears a disembodied voice in his Iowa cornfield repeating If you build it, he will come, after which he irrationally constructs a ballpark—the baseball-mediated reconciliation between the son and a younger version of his father resonates with anyone carrying unresolved conflict with a parent, or shame over youthful hotheadedness, or just bucolic memory of childhood sport. There's a good reason that Field of Dreams is the third-highest-grossing baseball movie of all time (adjusted for inflation), and there's a good reason it remains the go-to source at live games for inspirational audiovisual clips.

    But there is another, more insidious piece of symbolism in that very same scene. As the camera pans out from the father-son reunion and into the twilit summer sky, we see a line of cars snaking in from miles around, fulfilling a prophecy delivered minutes before by the novelist character played by James Earl Jones: "People will come, Ray. They'll come to Iowa for reasons they can't even fathom. They'll turn up in your driveway not knowing for sure why they're doing it. They'll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. 'Of course, we won't mind if you look around,' you'll say. 'It's only $20 per person.' They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it."

    Matt's essay is a masterful analysis of baseball cinema, baby-boomer nostalgia, and (it's Reason) government subsidies to billionaires.

    In other news (by the way), Axios notes: the Boston Red Sox have the priciest games to attend in the league. Their estimate for "4 average-priced adult tickets, parking for 1 car, 2 hats, 2 beers, 4 sodas and 4 hot dogs" runs to $385.

    Might be fun to splurge, though. StubHub is offering one ticket on the Green Monster for $244 for tonight's game. I could take the bus down to South Station, catch the T to Fenway, forget the hot dogs and beer,…

Last Modified 2024-01-30 6:11 AM EDT

The Phony Campaign

2023-04-02 Update

Nikki Haley is back, baby! The betting sites sampled by EBO have spoken! And raised her presidential prospects, once again, to meet our arbitrary inclusion criteria! (p ≥ 2%)

Still not showing up at EBO: Chris Sununu.

Candidate EBO Win
Hit Count
Ron DeSantis 18.0% -1.3% 7,520,000 -3,980,000
Pete Buttigieg 2.2% +0.1% 2,620,000 +550,000
Donald Trump 25.6% +1.1% 2,170,000 +940,000
Joe Biden 33.1% +1.2% 626,000 +238,000
Nikki Haley 2.1% --- 129,000 ---
Kamala Harris 2.8% unch 128,000 -592,000
Other 16.2% -3.2% --- ---

Warning: Google result counts are bogus.

  • Those cutups at the Bulwark provide us with no less than Five Reasons for DeSantis’s Phony ‘I Won’t Extradite Trump’ Stunt. Taking off from Governor Ron's tweet:

    … and he goes on to say that "Florida will not assist in an extradition request".

    The Bulwarker points out:

    It perfectly demonstrates DeSantis’s cynical opportunism. He poses as a great admirer of the Constitution but is ready in a heartbeat to betray his sworn duty to “support, protect, and defend” it in order to cater to MAGAworld for political gain.

    Article IV, Section 2, of the Constitution says, “A Person charged in any State with Treason, Felony, or other Crime, who shall flee from Justice, and be found in another State, shall on Demand of the executive Authority of the State from which he fled, be delivered up, to be removed to the State having Jurisdiction of the Crime.” The United States Code imposes the same duty, as does Florida law.

    You can click through if you want to see those five reasons mentioned in the headline.

  • The scenarios under which Pete Buttigieg becomes our next president are of low probability, according to the betting sites. I say they are not low enough. Because, for example: Buttigieg’s DOT brewing another Biden crisis as FAA moves to ‘pull down’ summer flights.

    It appears Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is determined to continue his stunning streak of DOT disasters.

    In order to avoid a repeat of January’s disastrous grounding of all flights by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) over a glitch in its NOTAM system — renamed by Buttigieg the “Notice to Air Missions” to soften its less inclusive “Notice to Airmen” moniker — the FAA, which falls under Buttigieg’s Department of Transportation, announced last week a new plan that would reduce by up to 10% flight requirements for airlines’ takeoff and landing rights.

    The issue seems to be our creaky socialist air traffic control system. This promises to make summer air travel even more miserable for customers. While Pete, no doubt, will be zipping around the country in taxpayer-funded private jets.

    Could we please Privatize The Skies? Probably not an option Pete's considering. But I'm old enough to remember When Democrats Loved Deregulation.

  • The Veep went to Africa, and … Conservatives mock Kamala Harris over claims blundering VP has finally 'found her footing' in Africa. Particularly amusing:

    But, hey, what about that $55 billion in economic aid Biden promised to Africa last year?

    “I am definitely putting a lot of pressure, if you will, on our approach to make sure that we are doing as much as we can as soon as we can to get this jump started,” Harris told reporters before she left Ghana for the next leg of her trip, Tanzania. “I do believe the window is definitely open now. Based on what we do now, the window will continue to be open.”

    Thank you, Kamala.

  • And Hot Air reports that Joy Behar says the quiet part out loud: Democrats want Trump to win the GOP nomination.

    It’s no secret that Democrats want Donald Trump to be the Republican nominee for president. They think Joe Biden can beat him in a re-match of the 2020 election. Joy Behar admitted on Wednesday’s broadcast of The View that “Trump is the one who needs to get the nomination because then the Democrats will win.”

    To put the whipped topping on the pudding: "Behar went on to call DeSantis 'a dweeb.'"

Last Modified 2023-05-31 4:56 AM EDT

It's a Good Day For Interstellar Travel

[GigaGalactic Rockets] Thanks be to GigaGalactic Rockets, which is "dedicated to revolutionizing space travel and making the galaxy accessible to everyone." Their key innovation:

After years of intense research and development, GigaGalactic Rockets unveiled the GigaGalactic Improbability Drive (GGID) in 2023. The GGID is a revolutionary propulsion system that enables instantaneous travel across vast distances by harnessing the power of improbability. The Improbability Drive calculates the infinite improbability of reaching a specific location in the universe and translates that improbability into a finite probability, allowing spacecraft to instantaneously traverse mind-boggling distances.

It's all due to their visionary CEO, Iam Shill. I'm looking forward to booking a trip.

Briefly noted:

  • Jeff Maurer describes his path to inner peace: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Sweatshops. Starting with a couple of charts, for example:

    Maurer's commentary (footnote elided):

    These graphs are merely the latest in a long string of data showing that global poverty is plunging. Now, if you’re a socialist, this is terrible news. One of Twitter’s funniest running gags is socialists trying to pretend that global poverty isn’t declining. But, tragically for them, it is. Of course, if you’re not deeply committed to a 19th century ideology hatched by a misanthrope who thought that he could predict the future because he read a bunch of books, then scores of people living better lives is outstanding news.

    Maurer aims to discomfit both the socialist left and the xenophobic right. And succeeds.

  • Oh, yeah: Donald Trump went and got indicted. Since I am not a lawyer, or a Trump fan, I go to people I trust for commentary, and one of them is former prosecutor Andrew McCarthy. And his headline is: Alvin Bragg Crosses the Rubicon, Indicting Donald Trump on Stormy Daniels Nonsense.

    Alvin Bragg, the elected progressive Democrat who ran for Manhattan district attorney as the candidate most likely to wield his power against Donald Trump, crossed the Rubicon on Thursday. His subordinate prosecutors presented and convinced a grand jury to vote for an indictment that will make Trump the first former president to be charged with a crime in American history.

    If reports are to be believed, it is not merely an unworthy exercise of prosecutorial discretion. It is one that will threaten the legitimacy of the justice system — on the public acceptance of which the rule of law hinges.

    So that sounds like a bad thing. Let's check on Jacob Sullum's take: Bragg's Case Against Trump Reeks of Desperation To Punish a Political Opponent.

    The New York indictment of Donald Trump, which won't be unsealed until he is arraigned early next week, reportedly includes "more than two dozen counts." That's a surprisingly large number if the case is based entirely on the $130,000 that Trump lawyer Michael Cohen paid porn star Stormy Daniels in 2016 to keep her from talking about her alleged 2006 affair with Trump. The litany of charges reinforces the impression that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, is trying to justify this belated and dubious prosecution by transforming minor misconduct into a case that looks serious until you consider the underlying allegations.

    According to reporting based on anonymous sources close to the investigation, Bragg is relying mainly on a state law that makes it a misdemeanor to falsify business records "with intent to defraud." Trump, who reimbursed Cohen for the hush payment to Daniels, allegedly broke that law when his business misrepresented the reimbursement as payment for legal services under a nonexistent retainer agreement. If the Trump Organization recorded the payment in more than one document, those records could be the basis for several counts under this statute. But each of those counts would still be a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum fine of $1,000 and/or up to 364 days in jail.

    It sounds like one of those Rube Goldberg contraptions, transmogrified into a legal argument. So pass the popcorn, please.

  • Ron Bailey looks at that open letter suggesting a "pause" in AI research (that I've previously mentioned here and there) and concludes It's a Bad Idea and Won't Work Anyway. He has a veritable plethora of examples of pas "expert" doomsaying that turned out to be ludicrously wrong, strongly suggesting this might be the latest. Bottom line:

    A moratorium imposed by U.S. and European governments, as called for in the open letter, would certainly delay access to the possibly quite substantial benefits of new A.I. systems while doubtfully increasing A.I. safety. In addition, it seems unlikely that the Chinese government and A.I. developers in that country would agree to the proposed moratorium anyway. Surely, the safe development of powerful A.I. systems is more likely to occur in American and European laboratories than those overseen by authoritarian regimes.

    I'm sure that China would use their strong record of safe virology research to guide their AI research.

  • In our "Because Of Course They Did" Department, Kevin D. Williamson takes a look at a recent example of journalistic expertise: The Washington Post Misfires—Again.

    When it comes to the AR-15, the Washington Post keeps getting it wrong. A piece headlined “The Blast Effect” makes various claims about the rounds fired by AR-type rifles, some of which are untrue, the rest of which are common to almost all centerfire rifles. The Washington Post’s claim that the AR-type rifle is “uniquely destructive” is categorically false. The journalistically responsible thing to do would be to retract these claims, but the Post is not engaged in journalism—it is engaged in culture-war propaganda.

    And yet the Biden Administration has yet to announce any steps to combat this source of misinformation.

Last Modified 2024-01-30 6:11 AM EDT