Democracy May Not Die in Darkness, But…

It Sure Gets Messy

We don't usually do Breaking News here at Pun Salad, but I wandered over to the Stossel/Lott Election Betting Odds site this morning, and noticed that President Dotard's win probability took another significant hit last night, roughly between 9pm and 10pm. (The site updates odds every minute.) Small compared to the drop observed during the debate, but very noticeable.

What happened last night? I think 'twas this story from NBC News: Biden turns to family on his path forward after his disastrous debate: 'It's a mess'. The story dropped at 8:24pm, updated at 9:30pm.

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden is expected to discuss the future of his re-election campaign with family at Camp David on Sunday, following a nationally televised debate Thursday that left many fellow Democrats worried about his ability to beat former President Donald Trump in November, according to five people familiar with the matter.

There are a lot of on-the-record quotes from top Democrats expressing "full confidence" and "firm support".

And a number of off-the record quotes saying …

Despite delivering a rousing speech at a rally in North Carolina on Friday that calmed some of his allies, Biden was described by one person familiar with his mood as humiliated, devoid of confidence and painfully aware that the physical images of him at the debate — eyes staring into the distance, mouth agape — will live beyond his presidency, along with a performance that at times was meandering, incoherent and difficult to hear.

“It’s a mess,” this person said.

Another person familiar with the dynamics said Biden will ultimately listen to only one adviser.

“The only person who has ultimate influence with him is the first lady,” this person said. “If she decides there should be a change of course, there will be a change of course.”

So things might be shaking up soon. Or not. Yes, we don't go out on limbs here at Pun Salad.

Not again, anyway.

That said, here are the as-I-type probabilities:

Candidate EBO Win
Donald Trump 57.4% +3.8%
Joe Biden 20.1% -17.5%
Gavin Newsom 7.6% +5.1%
Kamala Harris 5.8% ---
Michelle Obama 5.0% +1.9%
Other 4.1% +0.9%

I'll point out the obvious about the week's shifts:

  • Biden's win-probability cratered by 17.5 percentage points. (And it wasn't that great last Sunday.)
  • But Trump's increase in win-probability wasn't close to comparable.
  • Instead, the wagering community seems to have turned its lonely eyes to other Democrats: Gavin, Kamala, and (even) Michelle.
  • And "Other" improved too.

And (of course) all this could change later today, maybe before you even read this. I realize you may have a life apart from obsessively reading Pun Salad.

Also of note:

  • Why Baby Why? Andrew C. McCarthy asks Why Joe Biden? And answers:

    Because Democrats want to stay in power and propping him up, as impossible as that has now become, seemed to be the best plan. Sadly, it may yet be. That, if I may repeat myself, doesn’t change the basic fact: The nation has to have a president who is not mentally incapacitated.

    Sorry, I'm out of NR gifted links for June. I encourage you to subscribe.

    (And this item's Classic—literally classic—reference.)

  • I'm going with "Not", George. Mr. Will has an open mind on his burning question: The nation deserves better than that debate. Or does it?

    Jaundiced voters have defined adequacy so far down that they surely were not expecting Thursday evening to feature witty badinage, or even a few stray facts about the nation’s condition or policies for improving it. Rather, such voters wondered: Would Donald Trump temper his loutishness? Could President Biden sustain semi-acuity for 90 minutes? Their questions were answered: no, and no.

    Trump, who is never as jolly as Father Christmas, was as constantly cranky as usual. His fleeting moments of semisobriety perhaps only seemed to be such because they contrasted with his adversary’s struggles. Biden mostly resembled someone who has forgotten not where the car keys are but what they are for.

    Perhaps the nation is by now in a torpor, resigned to the spectacle of, as the phrase goes, two bald men fighting over a comb. Perhaps, however, Thursday night — the campaign’s nadir (so far) — was for the best. The Democratic Party might yet give a thought to the national interest. Persisting with Biden’s candidacy, which is as sad as it is scary, rather than nominating a plausible four-year president, would rank as the most reckless — and cruel — act ever by a U.S. party.

    I suppose we can blame the "Democratic Party". But you know who really put us here? Voters. Jaundiced, perhaps, as GFW concedes, but that's a lousy excuse.

    Yes, party leaders are reckless and cruel. But they are (probably accurately) going on their judgment of public sentiment.

    And the media have indulged in partisan hackery, covering up and apologizing for the manifest sins of the front-runners, instead of reporting them fairly and honestly. But (once again) they are (probably accurately) going on their judgment of their customers. I.e., us.

  • The debate wasn't all incoherent rambling. Alex Demas was Fact-Checking the Biden-Trump CNN Debate. And when the candidates managed to achieve coherence, what came out was false or misleading. My favorite is a long-debunked talking point:

    Biden also claimed that billionaires pay significantly less in taxes than average Americans. “[Billionaires are] in a situation where they, in fact, pay 8.2 percent,” Biden said. This is not the first time Biden has made such a claim, but it is false, as The Dispatch Fact Check noted in March:

    Biden’s 8.2 percent figure comes from an estimate made in September 2021 by Greg Leiserson, a senior economist in the Council of Economic Affairs, and Danny Yagan, chief economist of the Office of Management and Budget. Leiserson and Yagan measured income by looking at changes in estimated net worth among those listed in the Forbes 400—a ranking of the 400 richest Americans. They then compare these changes to IRS data on total income taxes paid by those on the Forbes list to calculate an effective average federal tax rate.

    This calculation, however, includes unrealized capital gains (i.e., the change in the value of an asset such as a stock or bond that has not yet been sold) as part of a person’s income. Capital gains—which are not included in conventional measures of income—are typically taxed only after an asset is sold and are generally subjected to a 20 percent rate for high earners, not standard income tax rates.

    Estimates by the Treasury Department and the Tax Policy Center in 2020 and 2021, respectively, which don’t include unrealized capital gains, estimated that the average federal income tax for the highest-income families in America was 23 and 25 percent.

    The Tax Foundation has a sober article on the dreadful idea of taxing urealized capital gains here.

  • [Amazon Link]
    (paid link)

    We need a leash! Maybe also a muzzle! Bruce Bawer reviews a book that could become even more relevant Real Soon Now: Newsom Unleashed: The Progressive Lust for Unbridled Power by Ellie Gardey Holmes, Amazon link at your right.

    I’ve been appalled by Gavin Newsom for years, but to read Ellie Gardey Holmes’s powerful and unflinching new book Newsom Unleashed: The Progressive Lust for Unbridled Power is to find one’s contempt for this hideous creature skyrocketing. If he has any redeeming qualities, any special gifts, any attributes that might illuminate an admirable and recognizably human side, there’s no sign of them here. This is a man who, despite having no discernible talent for governance or anything else, was lucky enough to be born into one well-off family – his great-grandfather co-founded the Bank of Italy, which later became the Bank of America – and to be, from earliest childhood, a sort of honorary member of an even richer family, the Gettys, his father being best friends with oil magnate Gordon Getty, who was like a second father to young Gavin.

    Both men, his biological father and his second father, used their considerable influence from the beginning to help Gavin rise to power. Indeed, as surely as any Kennedy or Bush, Gavin Newsom was born into a political machine and bred to be a politician. After he and Getty played a big role in helping Willie Brown to get elected mayor of San Francisco, Brown named Newsom to the city’s Parking and Traffic Commission. Soon he was promoted to the Board of Supervisors, a post he held from 1997 to 2004. “Because of his lack of qualifications,” writes Gardey Holmes, “Newsom entered office entirely indebted to Willie Brown.” Observers referred to him, in fact, as “an appendage of Willie Brown.” Quick sidebar in the midst of this tale of political advancement: when his mother was dying, Gavin was pretty much AWOL, although he was present when she underwent assisted suicide – which, at the time, was illegal in California. Others had been prosecuted for their participation in such actions; Gavin was not, a foreshadowing of many other occasions on which he would be treated as exempt from the rules governing the behavior of ordinary mortals.

    And, yes, the French Laundry is mentioned.

  • Sad but probably true. Elizabeth Nolan Brown claims, plausibly: Kamala Harris Was the Real Winner of [Thursday]'s Presidential Debate.

    Look, nobody wants to see Vice President Kamala Harris as president. She's a cop in a past life, a flop as vice president, and as phony as they come, with enough political baggage to fill a few Acela trains. Her presidential campaign four years ago was an unmitigated dud, parlayed into the vice presidency only by the unique demands of 2020. But after last night's debate between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump, Harris' chances of soon holding top office—or at least getting the opportunity to battle Trump for it—skyrocketed.


    Harris has name recognition and all the surface-level attributes Democrats want. And her slippery-but-vibrant style might actually hold up well against Trump in debates. It's hard to pin down what Harris believes beyond what will be politically advantageous in the moment. But at least Harris can deliver the politically advantageous lines with a modicum of confidence, some coherence, and believability.

    She has her own style problems—word salads, inappropriately timed laughter, a certain cringe factor when she tries to appear relatable—but they pale in comparison to the style apocalypse we saw from Biden last night.

    On substance, it's hard to know what we would get from a Harris campaign or presidency. Again and again, she's proven herself willing to blow with the political winds. "Harris has no political core, having swung without rhyme or reason between the persona of a tough centrist prosecutor and that of a leftist agitator raring to take on the white supremacist power structure," as Yascha Mounk at Persuasion writes.

    It's hard to believe voters would fall for Kamala. On the other hand, they've been falling for phonies for a long time. Would Kamala really be a stretch?

A Debate-Free Post, I Promise

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

A bit of good news: As the NR editors say, the Supreme Court Puts The Administrative State Back in Its Constitutional Place.

Scarcely anything was more central to the people who framed our Constitution than the separation of powers. John Adams, in the Massachusetts Constitution of 1780, wrote that it was designed “to the end it may be a government of laws, and not of men.” It was a topic upon which the men who gathered at Philadelphia in 1787 were effectively unanimous, having already incorporated it in the constitutions of their several states. Even more so than federalism, individual rights, or enumerated and limited powers, it was the separation of lawmaking, law-enforcing, and law-interpreting powers that they saw as the safeguard against the erosion of all the other elements of the constitutional system. And at the tip of the spear of the law, they placed the jury system, giving a share of the judicial power to ordinary citizens.

This system has always had its critics. The framers of the Confederate constitution of 1861 watered it down in their own version. Woodrow Wilson and other Prussian-inspired intellectuals thought it was old-fashioned, inefficient, and an obstacle to rule by modern experts. Wilson’s heirs to this day defend the bureaucratic administrative state, which interprets its own laws, runs its own courts, and is insulated from removal by the executive.

Americans in many walks of life have found themselves ensnared in these institutions, which are frequently immune to elections and unconstrained by written law. That includes the fishermen in Loper Bright Enterprises v. Raimondo, who found themselves saddled with the cost of regulatory monitors traveling on their fishing boats — even though Congress never passed a law making them pay that cost.

Oddly enough, the folks who prattle on about "democracy" most often seem to be perfectly fine with unaccountable bureaucrats making up their own laws. For example, Senator Amy:

Or Senator Liz and the AP:

The AP is probably hopeless, but just tell your Senators and CongressCritters: you need to pass better laws. Do your job instead of punting to the executive branch.

Also of note:

  • Because they first have to decide what shade of red their red tape should be. Joe Lancaster asks: Why Has Biden's $42 Billion Broadband Program Not Connected One Single Household?

    "In 2021, the Biden Administration got $42.45 billion from Congress to deploy high-speed Internet to millions of Americans," Brendan Carr, the senior Republican commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), wrote in a post on X (formerly Twitter) this month. "Years later, it has not connected even 1 person with those funds. In fact, it now says that no construction projects will even start until 2025 at earliest."

    BEAD is administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), an agency of the Department of Commerce. NTIA Administrator Alan Davidson told lawmakers in May, "with BEAD, this is really a 2025, 2026, shovels in the ground project."

    Carr blames the delay on "the addition of a substantive wish list of progressive ideas" to the approval process. In an April 2023 letter to Davidson, 11 Republican U.S. senators warned that "NTIA's bureaucratic red tape and far-left mandates undermine Congress' intent and would discourage participation from broadband providers while increasing the overall cost of building out broadband networks."

    The article quotes a tweet (reposted by Elon Musk) that "for $42 billion they could have bought Starlink dishes for 140 million people."

    But that would require a lot less bureaucracy. Can't have that!

  • I'm a sucker for a Hayek shout-out. John O. McGinnis spies some infrastructure you'll be required to drive on, and it's called Predistribution: The New Road to Serfdom. And (we seem to have a theme today) it's a full-employment program for bureaucrats:

    “Predistribution” is enjoying a surge of interest on the left. Unlike the more conventional idea of redistribution, or reallocating wealth through taxes, predistribution aims to reshape the income landscape by way of regulation before taxes even come into play. The approach seeks to transform earnings distribution right at their market source.

    Yale political scientist Jacob Hacker has been an academic proponent of the approach. Former Fed Vice Chair Alan Binder has given it recent publicity in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal. President Biden’s revision of the executive order on regulatory review provides a legal example by including an authorization for OMB to consider the distributional consequences of regulations to advance equity.

    What are the problems? Well, they are many, but screwing up free market signals in pursuit of "equity" is characteristic of them all. Bottom line:

    In contrast, predistribution has no logical stopping point, because it is neither aimed at externalities nor the needy. Instead, it is a relentless engine of interference with private action, stifling the spontaneous order that guides true human progress. While it may not immediately lead to the fascism or socialism that Hayek feared—thanks to America’s robust constitutional liberty—it would undoubtedly produce a society that is more stagnant and more conflict-ridden. Citizens would become government supplicants, lobbying for a piece of the surplus rather than free individuals fostering growth and innovation themselves.

  • [Amazon Link]
    (paid link)

    I'm fine with it. Greg Lukianoff is working on the paperback edition of The Canceling of the American Mind (Amazon pre-order link at your right). And he'd like our ideas about the tactics we right-wingers use to avoid dealing with inconvenient arguments from our opponents: Is the Efficient Rhetorical Fortress insufficient? You tell us!

    As readers of “Canceling” will note, there’s one very big difference between the left’s rhetorical fortress and the right’s: Where the left’s Perfect Rhetorical Fortress is convoluted and labyrinthine, the right’s is lean, mean, and incredibly effective despite its lack of bells and whistles. That’s why Rikki and I called it the Efficient Rhetorical Fortress: it’s…well…efficient.

    And as we mention in the book, the reasons for this have to do with each fortress’ origins. The left’s originated in academia and was developed on campus, where barricade after barricade was added through constant iteration. Every identity category was incorporated into the Demographic Funnel (which, thanks to a reader suggestion, we may rebrand as the Demographic Sieve. This is the kind of great feedback we’re looking for!), expanding it with specific approaches to identity categories in order to disqualify nearly everyone on Earth with the “wrong” opinion: race, sex, sexuality, cis- or trans-identification. Then come the layers where one’s character, relationships, and perceived behavior can be weaponized against them.

    Meanwhile, the Efficient Rhetorical Fortress arose from everyday politics, talk radio, cable news, and social media. It is rooted in the right’s distrust of authority, antipathy towards “elites,” and vilification of the left or “liberals” as a whole. The whole thing is built upon three simple rules:

    Components of the ERF (further descriptions at the link):

    1. You don’t have to listen to liberals (and anyone can be labeled “liberal” if they have the “wrong” opinion).
    2. You don’t have to listen to experts (even conservative experts, if they have the “wrong” opinion).
    3. You don’t have to listen to journalists (even conservative journalists if they have the “wrong” opinion).
    4. You don’t need to listen to anyone who isn’t sufficiently pro-Trump.

    As a sometime commenter at GraniteGrok… yeah, I think I've seen all of those.

  • A self-described Marxist gets this right. Freddie deBoer points out an inconvenient fact, that Elite Education Journalism: Still Ideology at Its Purest. It's long, here's just a taste:

    What you get a lot of, these days, is education researchers assembling very complex (and thus opaque) models that seem designed specifically to arrive at the conclusion that school funding can fix education, whatever that means. On the other side, you have, well, reality. Reality is not kind to this idea. We live in a reality where New York annually spends the most on school funding per pupil while barely outperforming Utah, which spends the least; where the United States, a very rich country, spends around eight times as much per pupil as Vietnam, a very poor country, and yet is essentially at parity in international educational comparisons; where the United Kingdom spends dramatically more on education than South Korea but does dramatically worse. We’ve been regressing expenditures on outcomes for a long time and getting the same result - money doesn’t determine student performance. And, really… why would it?

    The great unexamined myth is that any social problem can be "solved" by throwing more taxpayer money at it.

    What, did that not work? Well, clearly, there was not enough money thrown! We gotta throw more!

    And above all: "We've gotta protect our phony baloney jobs!"

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda

So I didn't watch the debate last night. I explicitly said I wasn't predicting the outcome.

But privately I expected the usual partisan spinners to trot out their prefabricated intelligence-insulting talking points afterward, and overall not much changing.

Wrong as usual. Feel free to click over to Election Betting Odds and see how quickly Biden's odds of winning cratered, starting roughly at 9pm Eastern time last night.

  • Hey kids, what time is it? Noah Smith says it's Time to think about a second Trump term.

    It’s difficult to overstate how bad Joe Biden looked in the first presidential debate. He stumbled over his answers, sounded confused, and sometimes even forgot what he was saying halfway through. On the biggest and most important stage, Biden just couldn’t perform. It was easily the most disastrous debate performance I have ever seen.

    Which is not to say Trump did well; against an alert, well-spoken opponent, he would have come off very badly. He seemed manic and incoherent; his answers to questions resembled unhinged rants, skipping from topic to topic and full of obvious falsehoods. He is obviously going mentally downhill in his old age as well — just not as much as Biden.

    Personally, I still strongly endorse Biden over Trump. A President half-incapacitated by old age, but with competent appointees, is still preferable to a President who denies election results, encourages coup attempts against his own country, and encourages enemy empires to conquer U.S. allies. But I doubt most Americans will agree with me on this. Even before this disastrous debate, Biden was chronically behind in the polls, and Trump was favored to win in the election forecasts. Biden needed a very solid debate performance to turn things around, and he got the exact opposite of that.

  • But should Biden drop out? Nate Silver opines on that burning question, and concludes: Yes, Joe Biden should drop out

    I’m not really in a mood to critique Trump’s debate performance, which was stronger than I’d expected but also included lots of wild, rambling tangents that only seemed coherent in comparison to Biden. Trump never won a post-debate poll in any of his three debates against Hillary Clinton or his two against Biden in 2020. But he absolutely crushed Biden, 67-33, in CNN’s poll of debate-watchers. How bad do you have to screw up to lose a debate by 34 points to Donald Trump in a country as divided as this one? And yes, these polls historically do have some predictive power in anticipating movement in the horse race, especially with a result as lopsided as this one.

    Really, I thought we'd be 25th Amendment territory long before now. I wonder if Kamala is making discreet queries of the rest of the cabinet?

  • To a pulp. Christian Britschgi was impressed by one bit of Presidential incoherence: At the Presidential Debate, Biden Says He 'Beat Medicare'. (To be fair, Britschgi also remarks on Trump's "comparatively cogent lies".)

    At tonight's presidential debate, President Joe Biden made the shocking claim that under his administration, "We finally beat Medicare."

    It's a remarkable statement from a Democratic president. One would assume Biden would want to tout his preservation of entitlement programs—given that neither party (and particularly not the Democratic party) wants to seriously tackle entitlement reform.

    Instead, here is the president saying he finally "beat" the largest entitlement program of them all. Odd.

    The best explanation for Biden's remarks is that it was a passing gaffe. In fact, later in the debate, he attacked former President Donald Trump for wanting to cut Medicare and Social Security.

    That's not a particularly compelling explanation because that gaffe came at the tail end of a Biden answer that went from mildly cogent to utterly incoherent.

    But Trump… well, here's the bottom line:

    Libertarians, and friends of small government generally, have no champion among the two major party candidates. Given this sad reality, the best they can hope is for the candidates to at least check each other's most outrageous lies and evasions.


    In other words, you would hope that the two-party system would at least contain some productive competition between the two parties realistically competing to control a bloated, out-of-control federal government.

    What we saw tonight at CNN's debate confirms that the two-party system can't fulfill this task, even when the cameras are rolling.

  • "Irony can be pretty ironic sometimes." Eric Boehm got a chuckle from this bit: Trump Blames Biden for Never Removing the Tariffs Trump Imposed.

    President Joe Biden had more than three years to roll back former President Donald Trump's tariffs that are driving up prices for consumers and businesses.

    He did not, even though Biden had made clear during the last campaign that he knew Americans were bearing the cost of those trade policies. Instead, Biden chose to pander to unionized workers in the Rust Belt and peddle an economically nonsensical message that in many ways echoed the one Trump had implemented. Biden has even hiked some of the tariffs Trump initially implemented on imports from China.

    During Thursday night's debate in Atlanta, those chickens came home to roost—as Biden was attacked by Trump both for keeping those tariffs in place and for the consequences of those policies. He did not do a good job of defending himself.

    This makes me glad I didn't watch the debate. I could very well have damaged the TV by throwing something heavy at it.

  • Ah, yes. That's the world I was looking for. And that word is "debacle". The NR editors judge: The Biden Debate Debacle.

    Democrats cannot say they weren’t warned. Joe Biden’s age has never been a secret. He shows it every time he appears in public. We warned them ourselves. Back in February, we wrote that Biden should have withdrawn from the race last year — and still owed it to the country to do so. That reality ought to be clear even to his admirers after a debate in which his chief opponent was not Donald Trump but his own frailty.

    Biden sounded weak, wheezy, decrepit, and overwhelmed. His best moments came when he got indignant, but even then, his mantra of “the idea!” got almost as old as he sounded.

    It was an unspinnably bad performance. The people who claim that Biden is consistently sharp and vigorous behind the scenes always strained credulity. They should now be ignored or mocked.

    If Biden’s performance had not been so halting and weak, Trump’s own ramblings and flights from reality — on tariffs, on January 6, on deficit spending — might have cost him. But Trump was himself more disciplined than he had been during the 2020 debates, making relatively focused defenses of his record and attacks on Biden’s. He drew blood from Biden on late-term abortion and on Afghanistan.

    Biden’s senescence wasn’t the only dismaying thing about the debate. Neither candidate explained what he intends to do with power the next four years. Both were lost at sea when confronted with questions about the nation’s finances. They were livelier comparing golf handicaps. Bad as all of that is, though, the immediate problem is that we have a president who does not appear to be up to the job today, let alone for the next four and a half years.

    Democrats can scarcely hide their sense of panic and dread. They have only themselves to blame.

    Don't bother to click over, that's the whole thing. I'd only add that Republicans deserve a fair share of blame for… well, see above.

Last Modified 2024-06-29 5:36 AM EDT

Why I Still Love Twitter

OK, I know I'm not supposed to call it that any more. But these two tweets posts showed up adjacent in my feed yesterday. Both in reaction to the same news, incumbent CongressCritter, and "Squad" member, Jamaal Bowman's defeat in the Democratic primary. "Coincidence", or Elon's AI in action?

First up, Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, physics prof at the University Near Here:

And here's Iowahawk, David Burge, who's also expressing thanks:

Both Chanda and Dave are great sources of amusement, albeit for different reasons.

Also of note:

  • All you have to do is trust the FBI to play it straight. And maybe you should! We blogged earlier this week about Trump's claims that FBI's reported crime stats were fake, and the Washington Examiner's report that the data reported by the FBI "mislead about crime".

    Noah Smith rebuts all this, saying Yes, of course crime is way down.

    It’s election season, so the narratives are flying fast and furious. One of the MAGA side’s narratives is that America has become a violent, chaotic, and ungovernable place under Biden, and that Trump will restore order. This is a replay of a narrative they successfully used in 2016, when it was sort of true; in fact, it was the theme of Trump’s convention speech. It’s natural for the MAGA folks to want to re-up this golden oldie. Their story of a world in chaos (thanks, of course, to weak and hapless Democrats) encompasses border security, the wars in Ukraine and Gaza, and, most importantly, spiraling crime rates.

    But there’s at least one big problem for this narrative: Crime is falling fast in America.

    Smith is a Biden-loving Democrat, so if that's a deal breaker for you, don't bother clicking over. But if you do click over, I think you'll find a pretty fair-minded argument.

    He does (however) tend to overestimate the effect the Guy in the White House has on stuff like violent crime rates. Nobody refrains from a drive-by shooting by thinking, "Gee, I don't think Joe Biden would want me doing this."

  • It's Thug Life, Baby. Jeff Maurer opines about the "protests" exemplified by the recent dustup at a Los Angeles synagogue: A Lot of This “Political Action” Doesn’t Seem Very Political to Me.

    What is “political action”? And what is “being an intergalactic asshole”? I had never thought much about the line between the two. For most of my life, the distinction was self-evident: The Million Man March was politics, and streakers, vandals, and the cat-obsessed stalker who used to meow at Keira Knightley through her letterbox were not. But now, things that seem to be pretty solidly in the second category are being presented as the first. So, I think it’s worth thinking about what political action is and how we might recognize the difference between that and general assholery.

    I’d like to start with Les Miserables. The famous play, movie, and Key & Peele sketch has given people an overly favorable view of mob violence. Les Mis would have us believe that French mobs of the time were comprised of dashing revolutionaries, lovable moppets, and Wolverine dressed as a monochrome Willy Wonka. They’d also like us to think that the mobs all had immaculate teeth and perfect pitch. In reality, French mobs of that era were brutal hordes that literally ripped people apart. They weren’t there to demonstrate, they were there to murder, or possibly to accept concessions in exchange for holding off on the murder for another week or two. And, to be fair, that’s what you needed to do to get Louis XVI’s attention if you were not a clock.

    That Key & Peele sketch is pretty funny.

  • It's the Official State Religion of Massachusetts. Long ago, it used to be Puritanism. Nowadays, it's Progressivism, with baby-killing raised to a sacrament. Joseph Rowley relates the latest: Massachusetts Funds Pro-Abortion Campaign against Crisis Pregnancy Centers.

    Recently, I was watching a YouTube video when an ad butted in. “Whether you need pregnancy care or abortion care, avoid anti-abortion centers,” warned a grave but sympathetic 30-ish female voice. “They may look like medical clinics, but try to limit your options if you’re pregnant. Learn more and find care you can trust.”

    As a lifelong New Englander, I (alas) found nothing unusual about the substance of the ad or its moralistic tone. What was unusual was its attribution. As the ad finished, it was not the logo of Planned Parenthood or another abortion-rights organization that came on the screen, but the seal of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. The ad was one of two launched a week ago by Governor Maura Healey as part of a $1 million new campaign against crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs).

    Nothing must be allowed to interfere with pro-abortion messaging! Dissent is invalid and must be suppressed!

  • Cold comfort. George Will finds a very small pony in recent news: The only comforting thing about Biden vs. Trump: One of them will lose.

    On Nov. 6, 1860 — Election Day — a Springfield, Ill., lawyer who had been a one-term congressman 11 years prior, and soon would be president, said elections are like “‘big boils’ — they caused a great deal of pain before they came to a head, but after the trouble was over the body was in better health than before.” This nugget is from Erik Larson’s just-published “The Demon of Unrest,” concerning the coming of the Civil War that preserved the body politic.

    The one soothing certainty is that when the boil of this year’s election is lanced, politics will be cleaned of one deeply disapproved candidate. Another, however, will be elected. Many voters think of this year’s choice somewhat the way Henry Adams said many voters thought of the candidates in a previous rematch of presidents (Benjamin Harrison and Grover Cleveland in 1892): “One of them had no friends; the other, only enemies.”

    Biden’s most remarkable achievement as president has been to produce “Trump nostalgia.” Analyst Charlie Cook notes that when Donald Trump left Washington 14 days after the Jan. 6, 2021, debacle, 55 percent of people polled by CNN considered his presidency a failure. Trump is the only president in more than 70 years of modern Gallup polling to not reach 50 percent approval while in office; his presidency is now rated a success by 55 percent.


  • Could we be saved tonight? Eric Boehm goes full Pollyanna: Why a Disastrous Biden-Trump Debate Could Be the Best Outcome for America.

    What if Thursday night's debate is a complete train wreck? And not in the same way as before. What if the debate doesn't merely descend into uncivil nonsense—which is the bare minimum of what should be expected—and doesn't simply confirm what the Biden-Trump debates in 2020 showed: that these men deserve neither our respect nor our affection?

    No, I mean what if it is actually bad? Democrats have been working hard to counter-program any suggestion that Biden's mental acuity has declined, but the evidence keeps piling up. Polls show that voters are already quite skeptical of reelecting a president who will be 82 years old on Inauguration Day. What if something happens that's undeniable, inescapable evidence that Biden's no longer sharp enough to run the executive branch?

    What if Trump confirms what some Republicans have been whispering in recent months: That he rambles like an elderly, intoxicated uncle, consumed by his spiraling legal problems and no longer in possession of the considerable charm and wit that's always been his best weapon as a politician? It's unlikely Trump could say or do anything at this point that alienates his core supporters, but what if he says something that reminds average Republicans why 10 members of his own party voted to impeach him at the end of his last term?

    Well, unless someone pays me a whole lot of money to watch the debate, I'll probably be watching sitcom reruns instead. I assume someone will tell me who did worse.

Last Modified 2024-06-28 6:02 AM EDT

Jeopardy! Clue: This Government Agency Should Be Privatized

And the correct response is: What is the US Postal Service?

But I will give them credit for putting out Alex Trebek Stamps.

Clever! And also expensive! 73¢/stamp!

The USPS reported that they lost $6.5 billion in FY2023. (Please imagine the Postmaster General looking around his office, muttering "I could swear I mailed that $6.5 billion to myself…")

Recent Pun Salad commentary on the USPS here, here, and here. And for a serious look at what should be done, I recommend Privatizing the U.S. Postal Service from the "Downsizing Government" folks at Cato.

Also of note:

  • Spoiler: it turns out that Scientific American sucks worse than ever before. Jesse Singal writes On The Urge To Think Things Suck Worse Now Than Ever Before.

    The other day I came across a Scientific American article headlined “We’ve Hit Peak Denial. Here’s Why We Can’t Turn Away From Reality.”

    The article, by a pair of researchers at Stanford University and York University, attempts to argue that we are living in increasingly terrible, violent, chaotic times. 

    Is this true? It’s a widely held belief, particularly among academics and media, as well as an interesting horseshoe coalition of far-left (capitalism has destroyed everything) and far-right (multiculturalism and the collapse of traditional values have destroyed everything) thinkers and, perhaps more often, “thinkers.” Steven Pinker wrote The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, published in 2011, in part to rebut this sort of thinking, which is endemic in his own circles.

    So, the article: it’s bizarre. Let’s unpack it. The framing presents the thesis as an obvious, established fact, and immediately sets out to describe deniers as Part of the Problem and to explain their false beliefs. The subheadline: “We are living through a terrible time in humanity. Here’s why we tend to stick our heads in the sand and why we need to pull them out, fast.”

    Singal's substack has a paywall, but there's enough to verify SciAm has no intention of stopping its slide into ideological propagandizing. (Jerry Coyne has some further excerpts.)

  • The Streisand Effect combined with the Ellsberg Effect. Adam Goldstein writes at Greg Lukianoff's substack: A Tennessee journalist is being threatened with jail time for reporting on a school shooter’s ‘manifesto’.

    Last March, a 28-year-old former student spent 16 minutes revisiting his Christian elementary school in Nashville, Tennessee. During that time, he killed three adults and three nine-year-old children before being killed by local police.

    The shooter, Aiden Hale (a trans-man sometimes referred to by his birth name, Audrey Hale), left behind a collection of writings documenting his thoughts in the months leading up to the shooting. As a statement from the Metro Nashville Police Department described them:

    “In the collective writings by Hale found in her vehicle in the school parking lot, and others later found in the bedroom of her home, she documented, in journals, her planning over a period of months to commit mass murder at The Covenant School.”

    As a commenter pointed out, it's certainly nice that we "respect the pronouns" of even mass murderers.

    And note that the murders were committed in March 2023, but:

    Police are claiming the writings are part of an ongoing investigation, and a judge overseeing an open records lawsuit ordered Tennessee Star Editor-in-Chief Michael Patrick Leahy to explain why he shouldn’t be held in contempt for their publication. Threatening journalists with jail time for publishing truthful information isn’t something we’re supposed to be doing in this country.

    Just how long will the "ongoing investigation" ongo?

    I assume if Aiden/Audrey had been a Trump fanboy/girl, the journals would have been long since published, analyzed, and milked for any possible political advantage.

    Goldstein does a fine job of rebutting the (very poor) legal reasoning behind the jail threats.

  • Vivek Murthy! Is there anything he can't do? Well, yeah. As Charles C. W. Cooke points out Vivek Murthy Can’t Depoliticize Gun Policy.

    Here is the New York Times, reporting credulously on one of the more sinister habits that the modern progressive movement exhibits:

    The U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, on Tuesday declared gun violence in America a public health crisis, recommending an array of preventive measures that he compared to past campaigns against smoking and traffic safety.

    That’s the soft version. As we soon learn, what Murthy actually means is this:

    “I’ve long believed this is a public health issue,” he said in an interview. “This issue has been politicized, has been polarized over time. But I think when we understand that this is a public health issue, we have the opportunity to take it out of the realm of politics and put it into the realm of public health.”

    We hear a lot these days about “Our Democracy.” I would invite the people who talk that way to step back for a moment and consider the above paragraph. Shed your personal preferences, puncture your partisan bubble, suppress the fuzzy feelings that the abstractions in Murthy’s rhetoric convey, and really stare at that argument for a while. Think about its meaning. Imagine its implications. Ruminate on its consequences. And, when you’ve done that, answer me this: What the hell is “take it out of the realm of politics and put it into the realm of public health” supposed to mean in these United States?

    CCWC's article might be behind the NR paywall, and I'm out of gifted links for June, sorry. But you can get a taste of Murthy's stretched logic from his tweet:

    Of course there's the usual fetishism, the language that implies that firearms have magical powers that allow them to act all by themselves.

    Also of course (as noted by a commenter), those scary numbers are from the Kaiser Family Foundation, based on some sketchy polling.

    And did you notice CCWC's characterization of the NYT story as credulous? If you Google "Surgeon General’s Advisory on Firearm Violence" you will find the NYT's credulity is no exception.

    But the most important point is the one CCWC hammers home: Murthy's efforts to paint this as a "public health" issue is inherently totalitarian.

Last Modified 2024-06-27 5:04 AM EDT

Who Has Two Thumbs and Likes School Choice?

Condi! Should she be the next Secretary of Education? We could do worse, and probably will:

Also of note:

  • We live in perilous times! Recent headlines served up by the Google:

    But what I want to share is Andrew C. McCarthy's insight (my final National Review gifted link for the month): Merrick Garland’s Special-Counsel Appointment of Jack Smith Is in Peril.

    In the coming weeks, there is a very real possibility that the federal district court in Florida will rule that Attorney General Merrick Garland’s appointment of Jack Smith as a special counsel (SC) violated the Constitution’s appointments clause (art. II, §2, cl.2).

    If Judge Aileen Cannon, the Trump-appointee who is presiding over Smith’s illegal document-retention prosecution against former president Trump, were to make such a ruling, would the Biden Justice Department have to start the case over from scratch? Perhaps, but I think that’s unlikely.

    More likely: AG Garland would have to reassign the case to a district U.S. attorney appointed by President Biden. That probably wouldn’t cause much delay. It would, however, force Garland to abandon his independent-prosecutor deception — i.e., the artifice by which he and Biden claim that they have no involvement in the government’s prosecution of Biden’s electoral opponent and that all decisions are being made by Smith, a supposedly independent actor. In truth, Biden and Garland are controlling the Trump prosecutions — as a matter of constitutional law, and as a matter of fact.

    What follows is a fine-tuned tutorial on Constitutional law and the appropriate Special Counsel regulations, which (as ACMcC notes) AG Garland "notoriously flouts". What would happen if Smith's appointment was ruled invalid?

    Nothing would change except the politics of the 2024 presidential campaign: It would be clear for all to see that the Justice Department, under President Biden’s control and authority, is prosecuting Biden’s electoral opponent, Donald Trump, including on charges of illegally retaining national-defense intelligence — felony charges of the same kind that the same Biden Justice Department declined to bring against Biden.

  • Ann sees it. Do you? She says The panic shows. About what? Her post in its entirety:

    "CNN abruptly takes Trump campaign spokeswoman off the air mid-interview as network is set to host first presidential debate" (NY Post)(video at link).

    CNN abruptly cut Trump campaign spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt from the air Monday morning.... Anchor Kasie Hunt pulled the plug just minutes after the interview got underway after asking Leavitt what former President Donald Trump’s strategy was for when he takes to the stage in Atlanta, Ga. on Thursday....

    The spokeswoman... noted the debate stage would likely be a “hostile environment” for her boss – and accused CNN’s debate moderators, co-hosts Jake Tapper and Dana Bash, of biased coverage of him in the past....

    In overreacting to the mention of CNN bias, CNN's Hunt showed bias. Now, we're all looking at this clip, and I doubt if much of anyone was watching whatever little CNN show that was. I had to look it up: "CNN This Morning with Kasie Hunt." But maybe that helps CNN. I believe the show has about 50,000 viewers, and there are sure to be Trump haters who love this plug-pull.

    Karoline was previously the Republican candidate running against my own CongressCritter, Chris Pappas, in 2022. I held my nose and voted for her, but she wound up losing 54.1%-45.9%. I have to say, judging from the video at the NYPost, she's a pretty good spokesmodel, attractive and composed.

  • Maybe warning labels need warning labels. Or is that too meta? Anyway, Kevin D. Williamson writes on The Superstition of Warning Labels. In specific reaction to U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, having nothing better to do, advocating for warning labels being slapped onto social media platforms.

    Dr. Murthy writes: “As a father of a 6- and a 7-year-old who have already asked about social media, I worry about how my wife and I will know when to let them have accounts.” Let me help here: The answer to “when?” is: never. Social media is a sewer, smartphones are the portal to that sewer, and you shouldn’t let your children have them. You can take $1,000 to a good used-book store and get enough reading material to keep your children busy until they are adults. That and a couple of subscriptions will do it. If your children whine about it, tell them “No,” tell them “No” again as necessary, and remind yourself who is the parent and who is the child and then act accordingly. Trying to make social media safe for children is like trying to make guns safe for children. I am as pro-gun a guy as you are going to meet, but they aren’t safe—being safe isn’t what they are made for. Social media is designed to give people instant, unmediated access to the very worst that humanity has to offer. That is what it is there for. If somebody has something thoughtful, well-considered, and worthwhile to say, something that is of long-term value, then he can write a book like a civilized human being would, or at least a newspaper column. Don’t go camping in the garbage dump and then complain that it is full of garbage.

    My suggestion for Dr. Murthy, who I'm sure is a nice enough guy: if you want to help people, perform general surgery. It's right there in your job title.

  • On the LFOD watch. A guy named Marty Smith writes for a publication called Willamette Week, over there in Oregon. A few days ago, he responded to an emailed question: Why Was Oregon’s Flu Season So Mild? Long, but LFOD appears near the end:

    The folks at the CDC, in spite of their role in the woke liberal conspiracy to deny Americans their God-given right to die of measles, do a pretty good job of tracking the kind of thing you’re talking about, George. According to them, the current flu season (it’s technically not over till September) was neither mild nor severe, but right-down-the-middle moderate. How boring!

    But that’s just the assessment for the United States as a whole. As you and the OHA (and I, since I totally knew and certainly did not learn about it just now) have observed, in Oregon the severity of this season’s flu stayed at “minimal” or “low” during every week but one. Interesting! Only two other states (Minnesota and Vermont) managed a similar feat this year.

    How? It’s tempting for us card-carrying weenie-liberal fans of Dr. Fauci to give these states a pat on their big blue backs. Obviously, we beat the flu because our people believe in science, and masking, and vaccination! Suck it, Meatball Ron!

    Unfortunately, it’s probably not that simple. Oregon’s flu vaccination rate is pretty decent, but we’re a good five percentage points behind reigning champs New York, and they still hit the high end of the severity spectrum last winter. So did our fellow socialist utopias Washington and California. Meanwhile, when you look at the county-by-county breakdown, mask-skeptical Southern Oregon stayed just as flu-free as we did up here in the Leninist Shangri-La of Portland.

    It gets worse: Last year’s winner of the no-flu sweepstakes was live-free-or-die New Hampshire, where Republicans control both legislative chambers and the governor’s mansion. The year before that? On-the-bubble swing state Michigan. In other words, we probably just got lucky: Much of flu’s severity (or lack thereof) is driven by random chance.

    The timing of superspreader events, a change in the weather just as the disease is getting a toehold, the immunological makeup of the region’s population—any of these can be the difference between a few sniffles and a veritable plague. Taking basic precautions can help on the margins, but there are no guarantees. (That said, states whose governors encourage licking bus station doorknobs as an act of patriotism will always have an uphill climb.)

    Amusing! And I have to give Marty some credit for successfully disguising his politics amidst all the mockery.

Efrem Zimbalist Jr. Would Not Approve

Ann Althouse headlines a recent Trump quote: "The FBI crime statistics Biden is pushing are fake. They’re fake just like everything else in this administration.".

Okay, it's not news that Trump is making wild charges.

But it is news that he might have a point. Ann quotes a recent Washington Examiner article:

The fourth quarter 2023 crime report from the FBI, the federal government’s keeper of crime data, is unreliable at best and deceptive at worst.

The FBI’s preliminary 2023 data show murder declined by 13.2% across the country and violent crime dropped 5.7% compared to 2022 levels. Various news headlines have reported the FBI’s numbers unquestioningly, claiming murder is “plummeting” and violent crime “declined significantly” to pre-pandemic levels.

But these latest figures warrant skepticism, as we outline in a new report. In fact, violent crime is up substantially from 2019 levels, and last year’s apparent drop is less significant than it appears.

Ann also makes an interesting observation about the Guardian article whence she got the Trump quote:

“The FBI crime statistics Biden is pushing are fake,” he said without evidence. “They’re fake just like everything else in this administration.”


When I first read that, I thought The Guardian was asserting, based on its own investigation, that Trump's statement is unsupported by evidence, but it's ambiguous, and it's deceptive in its ambiguity. It could just mean that Trump made his statement without going into any detail about why the FBI crime statistics are fake. I only noticed that ambiguity after I went looking for the information myself. I wonder if The Guardian also looked, also found the explanation, and decided to write "without evidence," leaving a loophole to deny that it meant to assert that there was no evidence.

So you might not be able to trust the FBI's crime stats, and you definitely can't trust stories from journalists who want to slag Trump.

Also of note:

  • As July follows June… Martin Gurri makes a more general point: Truth Follows Function.

    We are supposed to live in a post-truth world—I have said so myself, and more than once. What does that mean? Basically, that trust in our interpreters of truth—the elites, the mediating class, whatever one chooses to call them—has evaporated. We haven’t believed our presidents for at least a generation. We haven’t believed the news media and other organs of information since the advent of the web. At some point during the COVID-19 pandemic, we stopped believing our institutions of science.

    Truth isn’t the sum of many facts: It works the other way around. We erect frameworks of understanding, which the facts must fit into or modify. A healthy society will debate the relationship between a given fact and its role in our understanding of the world. The catastrophic failure of the mediators means that we now debate the frameworks and their meanings among ourselves. In this rolling chaos, interpretations have turned tendentious and partial. Reality has splintered into a million pieces. That’s the post-truth condition.

    I don't like to make predictions, but I predict t-shirts emblazoned with "In Fauci We Trust" will be marked way, way, down soon.

  • I wouldn't have expected this to be a mystery at all, let alone an enduring one. Elise Cutts writes at Quanta on The Enduring Mystery of How Water Freezes. See if this subhed doesn't grab you:

    Making ice requires more than subzero temperatures. The unpredictable process takes microscopic scaffolding, random jiggling and often a little bit of bacteria.

    Bacteria?! Eeewww!

Recently on the book blog:

Apropos of Nothing

(paid link)

I heard good things about this Woody Allen autobiography, and the Portsmouth Public Library had the large-print edition. (For some reason, they didn't splurge on the normal-print edition.) I was kind of an Allen fanboy back in my (and his) early days. But I was unimpressed with Manhattan and Stardust Memories and my consumption of Woody movies became more sporadic.

I read this shortly after I read Betty Smith's A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Decades separate those stories, one is fictionalized, but it's pretty interesting to note the similarities between the Brooklyn strivers in the books.

Near the end, Allen has a good summary:

In my lifetime I had written gags for nightclub comics, written for radio, written a nightclub act for myself and done it, written for television, played clubs and concerts and TV, wrote and directed movies, wrote and directed in the theater, starred on Broadway, , directed an opera. I've done it all from boxing a kangaroo on TV to staging Puccini. It's enabled me to dine at the White House, to play ball with major leaguers at Dodger Stadium, to play jazz in parades and at Preservation Hall in New Orleans, to travel all over America and Europe, to meet heads of state and meet all kinds of gifted men and women, witty guys, enchanting actresses. I've had my books published. If I died right now I couldn't complain—and neither would a lot of other people.

Allen's prose is like that: straightforward, with just a dash of wit. No hilarity, just many mini-zingers as above. There are literally hundreds of names dropped, a goodly fraction of them famous. And mostly complimentary too, especially to those actors and crew that worked on his movies. When he doles out criticism, he's hardest on himself. Very self-deprecating.

Of course, the One Big Elephant in the room is the allegations of sexual abuse, which Allen strongly denies, and the one person to which he's not complimentary at all is Mia Farrow, who (he charges) is behind the attempted assassination of his character, as revenge for taking up a romantic/sexual relationship with Soon-Yi Previn, Mia's adopted daughter. I think he makes a pretty good self-defense. But I haven't heard much from his accusers.

Pro tip: don't leave naked pictures of your much younger girlfriend on the mantel of your swanky Manhattan penthouse.

The book has no chapters, it's pretty much just one page after another. At some points, for no apparent reason, there will be some extra whitespace between paragraphs, with the first few words after the whitespace being in a slightly larger font size. Go figure. I also noticed a few apparent typos, and since I am not a particularly diligent reader, I assume there are more.

City on Fire

(paid link)

This book is billed at Amazon as the first book in "The Danny Ryan Trilogy". So (spoiler!) he survives to the end. It's a near thing, though.

As the book opens, Danny is a minor thug in the Irish mob in Rhode Island. The occasional friendly truck hijacking, some collections of high-interest loans and protection money, that sort of thing. He has a day job working on a fishing boat. There's also an Italian mob, And a Black mob. But everyone seems to know their place, corrupt cops and judges are divvied up between them, so there's some semblance of peace.

But it only takes one little spark to cause a conflagration: one of the Irish guys cops a feel from the girlfriend of one of the Italian guys. And she does not take it well. A beatdown occurs. But then the girl switches her allegiance to the Irish guy. And… well, before you know it, the body count is on the rise, betrayals, cowardice, revenge, and … all associated stuff you've seen in movies and read in other books. (There's also a lot of soap-opera stuff with family.) Danny starts to take charge as his peers are either killed or wuss out.

I started reading Don Winslow because of the quirky little mystery-thrillers he wrote back in the 1990s. This one is pretty generic, although it moves along, maintained my interest in what was going to happen next. Although, to be honest, I didn't care much about what would happen next. None of the characters are very sympathetic or likeable. (Well, one exception: a baby shows up at some point.)

Where do we stand? Where do we sit? Where do we come? Where do we go?

Pun Salad is a sucker for expert linguistic analysis from John McWhorter. Recently he looked at the election-relevant topic: What Donald Trump Talks About When He Talks About ‘Donald Trump’.

The first debate of the 2024 presidential campaign, scheduled to take place next week, offers voters a chance to scrutinize the candidates’ political views and personal demeanor. For linguists, however, it also offers a rare side-by-side comparison of the way the candidates speak. You don’t have to follow politics to know that Joe Biden and Donald Trump have extraordinarily different verbal styles. Of the two, Biden’s is the less interesting, linguistically speaking, because it’s the more conventional. Trump’s, on the other hand — no matter what you think of his ideas — is fascinating. It’s sui generis.

Still, it’s possible to draw connections between Trump’s verbal mannerisms and other speech patterns in the world at large. The one that’s been on my mind this week is his habit of referring to himself by name, such as, “You wouldn’t even be hearing about the word ‘immigration’ if it wasn’t for Donald Trump.” In reference to making Barack Obama present his birth certificate: “Trump was able to get them to give something.” Also, “Nobody respects women more than Donald Trump” and “Eighteen angry Democrats that hate President Trump, they hate him with a passion.”

This may seem to suggest, variously, a Tarzanian linguistic tendency, a desire to market himself as a brand or just a plain old inflated ego. But the truth is more interesting because there is more to first-person pronouns — i.e., the “I” and “me” that we normally use instead of our own names — than simply ways of referring to the self. And there are many reasons that a person might seek to avoid these words, even in informal speech. There’s even a name for that tendency: illeism.

Fascinating! About the closest Joe comes to this is when he claims to…


"My word as a Biden" is a pretty reliable signal for any adjacent words being howling falsehoods.

Our headline du Jour inspired by this Monty Python bit:

Which brings us to our weekly look at the odds:

Candidate EBO Win
Donald Trump 53.6% -0.8%
Joe Biden 37.6% +2.1%
Michelle Obama 3.1% -0.1%
Gavin Newsom 2.5% -0.2%
Other 3.2% +1.2%

Well, darn. Kamala has left the building. (Her current probability: 1.8%.) And President Dotard has made up some significant ground on Bone Spurs.

It will be interesting to look at the odds next Sunday, after people digest the debate. Big shift, or more of the same? No predictions here.

Also of note:

  • The lonely lives of fact-checkers. CNN claims that Trump rewrites Wisconsin history in rally filled with false claims. Specifically:

    Former President Donald Trump made more than two dozen false claims at his Tuesday campaign rally in Racine, Wisconsin, including two significant attempts to rewrite Wisconsin history.

    The first was a slightly vaguer than usual version of his familiar lie that he won Wisconsin in the 2020 presidential election. He lost the state by 20,682 votes.

    The second was a version of a false claim Trump delivered in 2020 and again in 2022: his assertion that he had saved the Wisconsin city of Kenosha from destruction in 2020 when Gov. Tony Evers, a Democrat, refused to take action to deal with the civil unrest that followed the police shooting of a Black man.

    “By the way, you know, Kenosha: I saved Kenosha, do you know that? When I was president. Right? Right? I saved it,” Trump said Tuesday. “Kenosha was — Kenosha was about ready to go down the tubes and the governor wouldn’t move, he just wouldn’t move, and I moved. You know, I’m not supposed to; it’s supposed to be the governor, is supposed to do it, the mayor and the governor.”

    Facts First: Trump’s claims that Evers “wouldn’t move” and that Trump was the person who “saved Kenosha” are false, as numerous fact-checkers pointed out when he made similar claims in 2020. Evers, not Trump, deployed the Wisconsin National Guard during the rioting in Kenosha — and Evers first deployed the Guard the day before Trump publicly demanded that Evers do so. In other words, Trump insisted that Evers do something that he was already doing.

    Now I don't trust CNN very much, but this seems pretty solid evidence that Trump is either delusional or a baldfaced liar. (Or both, of course.)

    To be (sorta) fair to Trump, CNN labels some of his claims "false", when they are actually arguable.

  • If Biden is Custer, what does that make Trump? Steve Huntley wonders: Is the Debate To Be Biden’s Last Stand? But he also wonders, why debate so early, over four months before the election?

    Influential Democrats might see it as the last chance to save the party in November.

    These movers and shakers might figure that if Biden has a crippling debate performance of disconnected ramblings, meaningless utterances, angry outbursts and undeniable mental decline, there’s still time to persuade him to drop out and for the national convention in late July to produce a replacement.

    Just over a week ago prominent Democrat strategist James Carville, who knows a thing or two about how to succeed in politics, said he wished that Biden had already dropped out.

    After another recent disastrous poll, analyst Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight declared, “Dropping out would be a big risk. But there’s some threshold below which continuing to run is a bigger risk. Are we there yet? I don’t know. But it’s more than fair to ask.”

    Suppose the debate turns into a humiliating embarrassment for Biden. Democrats might find themselves at Silver’s “there.”

    I'm not a Democrat, but I was "there" long ago.

  • Is Michelle Obama phony? Well, Google coughed up this blast from the past: First Lady Michelle Obama: Wears False Eyelashes in London.

    Can the First Lady do anything without the world commenting? We don’t think so. On President Obama’s first official trip to the U.K., writers are claiming First Lady Michelle Obama stepped up not only her fashion game, but enhanced her natural beauty with false eyelashes, according to a Times London reporter. To achieve a natural eye finish when wearing faux flashes, never forget to add liner.

    Boy, that paragraph has a "written by AI" feel, doesn't it? In any case, neither of our front-runners have been accused of wearing fake eyelashes.

    As far as I know.

Last Modified 2024-07-05 6:08 AM EDT

Is There a Fair Maiden in Need of Rescue?

Maidens aside, Megan McArdle thinks that it's time to dispose of a pesky dragon: Slay the mortgage interest tax deduction! Now, while we can!.

Well, that was her original headline. Now it's "What any economist will tell you (but no real estate agent will)". Too clickbaity, I prefer the original. But anyway:

It is fashionable to say that the United States’ best days are behind us, that we are too divided and dysfunctional to fix things that are broken, or to do anything worthwhile. I think America is still great, capable of both advancing onward to greater things and rectifying our past mistakes. As it happens, this is the perfect political moment to fix one mistake in particular: ending the mortgage interest tax deduction once and for all.

Maybe that’s not at the top of your list of America’s problems. And it’s nowhere near the worst sins our nation has committed. But the mortgage interest tax deduction is terrible policy, as any wonk who is not working for a real estate lobby will tell you (volubly, at great length, and very possibly punctuated with explosive profanity).

The deduction is regressive, benefiting only the small minority of taxpayers (under 10 percent as of 2020) who have enough income to bother itemizing their deductions. Since someone has to make up the lost tax revenue, it’s a transfer to the upper class from the middle class; to homeowners in expensive markets from those living in modestly priced locales; and to people who buy the biggest home they can, and mortgage it to the absolute hilt, from those who save for a sizable down payment, buy a sensible amount of house and pay down their loan as quickly as possible. “Tax the middle class more heavily so that successful professionals can buy bigger houses in pricier cities” obviously is not good public policy, though of course it might sound appealing if you happen to be a successful professional living in a pricey urban area like, oh, say, Washington, D.C.

That last bit is an indicator that Megan is arguing against her own interest (heh) here.

There's probably going to be a lot of re-jiggering the tax code next year, and its a safe bet that the usual demagoguery will be cranked up to at least 11, probably more. But this reform seems sensible and (unlike many otherwise sensible proposals) seems politically possible.

Also of note:

  • A futile effort. But Jeff Maurer makes it anyway, offering A Calm, Rational Message to Doomsaying Climate Maniacs. It's in response to the recent Oranging of Stonehenge by said maniacs. Maurer provides four pieces of good news:

    1. He gets to post the classic Stonehenge clip from This Is Spin̈al Tap!
    2. They'll probably be able to clean up the damage.
    3. The maniacs will probably go to jail. (Or, "gaol", since it's Britain.)


    The fourth bit of good news is that after years of bizarre protests that include damaging artwork and disrupting traffic, these groups are widely known to simply be cults. They’re not environmentalists, they’re not political demonstrators — they’re cults whose tactics are probably best described as “maximum assholery”. Future actions will probably include painting pubes on the Venus de Milo, throwing pig’s blood on Julie Andrews, and digitally editing all existing copies of E.T. so that the alien has massive boobs. Because these people just revel in being dicks.

    Maurer is optimistic that "we" can move to a low-carbon future while continuing to ignore (and when necessary, imprison) the cultists. He does not mention the Official Pun Salad crackpot solution, Artificial Photosynthesis.

  • Hey, kids, what time is it? Kevin D. Williamson offers his answer to that burning question: It Is Time for Radical Candor. KDW concentrates on the GOP primary race in Florida Congressional District One between incumbent and "cartoon villain" Matt Gaetz and Aaron Dimmock.

    I really hope the Dispatch paywall is porous enough to let you read the whole thing, but after KDW writes a standard profile of Dimmock, he lets loose:

    And that’s how you write your basic congressional candidate profile. I can do this all day. Give me 20 minutes on the phone with some dentist in Scarsdale who thinks he’s going to be the next Donald Trump (I’d have written something like “the next Sam Rayburn,” but, come on, none of these Navigator-driving suburban Republican jackwagons knows who Sam Rayburn was, and would be terrified to say an admiring word about a Democrat even if they did) and I will give you a column.

    I’m not turning my nose up at that: There is—can be—real value in such work, and there are people who do it really well here at The Dispatch, at the Washington Post, at the New York Times, at the Wall Street Journal.

    But like our politics and political campaigns per se, our political journalism has rules and parameters, conventions, lines within which you are expected to stay. I suppose that if I were better at that—if I could take the boredom—I’d probably have had a different kind of career than the one I have had. But I get hung up on stuff, e.g., the idiotic words “radical candor” coming out of the mouth of a sniveling little weasel who is going to get stomped into goo by a beady-eyed, cosmically worthless, evolution-missed-a-generation smegma smear of a subhuman being such as Matt Gaetz and deserve it. It’s another little Battle of Stalingrad: It’s a pity somebody has to win; all a decent person can do is pray for casualties. 

    It is not lost on me that, if what Florida’s 1st Congressional District wants is a “Trump Republican,” then Matt Gaetz is exactly what the witch-doctor ordered. And so I asked Dimmock: “From a certain point of view—and it is my point of view—what you’re doing is trying to beat one dishonest, disreputable, dishonorable man so that you can go and do the bidding of a different dishonest, disreputable, dishonorable man.” Yeah: Gaetz is Gaetz—but Trump is Trump, too, and Dimmock insists he is a “Trump Republican.” And how in the hell does a self-styled “Trump Republican” have it in him to complain about anybody’s character: Matt Gaetz, Joe Biden, Pol Pot, etc. 

    Oh, but Mr. Radical Candor has an answer for that!

    You will be unsurprised to learn that KDW finds Dimmock's "radical candor" is neither radical nor candor. "Discuss."

Recently on the movie blog:

Trigger Warning

[2 stars] [IMDB Link] [Trigger Warning]

There are probably hundreds of better free-to-me movies I could have watched off my Roku. Heck, I've got dozens of better movies on DVD. But, come on, who could resist this Netflix blurb:

A skilled Special Forces commando (Jessica Alba) takes ownership of her father's bar after he suddenly dies, and soon finds herself at odds with a violent gang running rampant in her hometown.

Jessica Alba! I first saw her in the Dark Angel TV series back in 2000! After doing some math… she was 19. Now she's 43. She's remarkably well-preserved.

The other big name is Anthony Michael Hall. When his name shows up in the opening credits, it's a safe bet he's playing the kingpin bad guy.

Anyway, it's pretty clichéd. Ms. Alba plays "Parker", who is pretty close to a female Jack Reacher, with a preference for edged weaponry. After an opening scene where she disposes of some Middle East generic terrorists, she's informed that her dad was killed in a cave-in in his beloved mine. So she goes back to America to deal with that. But (of course) he was murdered, because he found out about the evil doings of the Swann family, involving the theft of weaponry from a local military depot, supplying criminals and domestic terrorists.

The filmmakers were not overly worried about putting together a coherent plot, but I stayed awake. There is an amusing scene in a hardware store where Ms. Alba takes on some bad guys. One of the bad guys tries to defeat her by picking up a chain saw off the rack, which for some reason is all gassed up and ready to run. No, I do not remember why the bad guys were in the store, nor what happened to them.

Sorry, Kids

That's from the WSJ, demonstrating that Soaring U.S. Debt Is a Spending Problem. And they are not making it up; you can see pretty much the same graph from the latest Congressional Budget Office report here. The WSJ also has words:

You may have heard that the 2017 GOP tax cuts blew a giant hole in the federal budget—or so Democrats tell voters. The Congressional Budget Office’s revised 10-year budget forecast out Tuesday offers a reality check. Spending is the real problem, and it’s getting worse.

CBO projects that this year’s budget deficit will clock in at roughly $2 trillion, some $400 billion more than it forecast in February and $300 billion larger than last year’s deficit. This is unprecedented when the economy is growing and defense spending is nearly flat. The deficit this fiscal year will be 7% of GDP, which is more than during some recessions.

CBO says deficits will stay nearly this high for years, and the total over the next decade is now expected to total $21.9 trillion compared to $19.8 trillion in its February forecast. Debt held by the public will grow to 122.4% of GDP in 2034 from 97.3% last year.

And more words from the NR editors: America’s Deficit Disaster Gets Worse.

The bulk of the changes came from an increase in spending on student loans thanks to the Biden administration’s debt-forgiveness action, higher-than-expected spending on Medicaid, and the recently passed foreign-aid bill — all of which added to an already grim fiscal outlook.

Biden has repeatedly insisted that he has cut $1 trillion from deficits and that his budget would cut $3 trillion more. Both claims are deceptive.

The promised deficit savings in his budget depend on enacting offsets that remain unspecified. The assertion that he has cut $1 trillion from deficits is based on taking the peak Covid-era deficit (which he contributed to) and comparing it to deficits once the pandemic passed.

Their bottom line is sobering:

Unless major changes are made to alter the current path, Americans will face harsh trade-offs, with the possibilities including: crushing tax increases, severe spending cuts, the degradation of military readiness, economic stagnation, or some combination of all of the above.

This is a recipe for American decline.

And the headline above is heartfelt. Thanks to my general skinflintiness, and the mortality tables, I'm probably not going to be hurt much by the "harsh trade-offs". Neither will Biden, nor Trump.

I used to generate similar graphs myself, but frankly the WSJ and the CBO do a better job.

But to tediously repeat myself: I encourage you to blow up the above graph on a poster, haunt campaign events with it, and ask every candidate for Federal office: (1) Where should these lines go instead? and (2) What are you gonna do to make that happen?

Maybe use smaller words. Some of these folks ain't that bright.

Also of note:

  • Also a cowardly idiot. Dominic Pino identifies someone who will avoid those "harsh trade-offs": Ben Kamens Is a Perfect Spokesman for the Democratic Party.

    “Just got a call to let me know my student debt has been canceled. This is why elections matter. Thanks @JoeBiden.”

    Ben Kamens, the communications director for Representative Marcy Kaptur (D., Ohio), posted that on X today. It included a picture of the letter he received from Nelnet, the company that serviced his student loans. The letter begins, “Congratulations! The Biden-Harris administration has forgiven your federal student loan(s) listed below with Nelnet in full.”

    Kamens’s two loans were taken out in 2010. The original principal balances were $2,750 and $5,500. Again, he posted this on X for the entire world to see.

    As the text of his message demonstrates, he’s not the least bit ashamed about the fact that he, a grown man and college graduate with a full-time job, was apparently unable to repay debt with a principal of $8,250 over a span of 14 years.

    You maybe noticed the link to Twitter/X; don't bother. "You’re unable to view this Post because this account owner limits who can view their Posts." But the good folks at Twitchy managed to screenshot the post, and they also provide many predictable reactions. Perhaps the most on-target one being:


  • And he's not learning from his mistakes. Eric Boehm points out an inconvenient truth: Trump Said Tariffs Would Reduce the Trade Deficit. Instead, It Grew.

    During former President Donald Trump's term in office, he promised that higher tariffs on American imports would reduce the country's large trade deficit.

    At the time, many economists disputed that notion. Tariffs might marginally reduce the import side of the trade ledger, but they also reduce economic output (and therefore exports), so the net effect on the trade deficit was likely to be minuscule, they warned.

    No matter. In 2017, the White House's official Trade Policy Agenda highlighted how America's manufacturing trade deficit had grown from $317 billion in 2000 to $648 billion in 2016. That was evidence, the document claimed, that greater levels of trade had triggered "a period of slowed GDP growth, weak employment growth, and sharp net loss of manufacturing employment in the United States."

    You know what happened next. Tariffs were raised. Then more tariffs were added. President Joe Biden took over and left Trump's higher tariffs in place. American businesses and consumers paid the cost of those higher taxes. The average tariff rate on imports to the United States has climbed from 1.5 percent to over 3 percent, and annual tariff revenue has nearly tripled.

    So what happened to the trade deficit? It didn't fall.

    Prithee Read the Thing in its Entirety. But also read Don Boudreaux's mild retort to Boehm: The Accounting Misleads.

  • I abandoned him years ago, so this doesn't apply to me. Michael W. McConnell explains Why Republicans Don’t Abandon ‘Felon’ Trump.

    The charges against Mr. Trump in New York were bogus. The hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels weren’t illegal. It was the labeling of those payments as legal fees that constituted the crime—but that is a misdemeanor in New York, for which the statute of limitations ran out in 2019. The falsification of business records becomes a felony, with a five-year statute of limitations, only when done with the intent to conceal the commission of another crime.

    What was this other crime? The indictment didn’t say, and each juror was allowed to choose from any of three theories—which means that Mr. Trump could well have been convicted by a jury that hobbled together three different legal theories, even if a majority of jurors rejected each one.

    Toward the end of the trial, the prosecutors focused on a New York statute that forbids attempts to “influence” an election through “unlawful means.” Their theory—that all these shenanigans were designed to hide Mr. Trump’s immorality from the voters ahead of the 2016 election—might be true. There is, however, an insuperable problem with this theory. The payments to Trump lawyer Michael Cohen that were unlawfully categorized as legal fees were made after the 2016 election. The business-records crimes couldn’t possibly have been committed with the intent to influence the outcome of a contest that was already over. It follows that Mr. Trump was wrongly convicted.

    Republicans, independents and fair-minded Democrats are therefore justified in regarding the New York case as an abuse of the system, brought with the intention of affecting the 2024 election. District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s prosecution was a far clearer and more dangerous attempt to influence voters than were mislabeled payments to Mr. Cohen. No wonder so many people tell pollsters they were unmoved by the verdict, or that they will vote for Mr. Trump because of it.

    I Am Not A Lawyer, but McConnell raises valid points. Including:

    Hillary Clinton did the same thing that Mr. Trump did. Her campaign reimbursed a Democratic law firm more than $1 million for payments to a third party to produce opposition research—the Steele dossier—and falsely described these payments as “legal services” and “legal and compliance consulting.” The Federal Election Commission fined the Clinton campaign $8,000 for the violation, while Mrs. Clinton herself skated. Republicans wonder why a similar penalty for Mr. Trump wouldn’t have been sufficient for the much smaller payments to Mr. Cohen.

    Of course, none of that detracts from the simple fact that Trump and Stormy had a sleazy liaison. Maintaining his perfect record of betraying every wife he's ever had.

Recently on the book blog:


(paid link)

I'm pretty much on auto-buy for anything from James Lee Burke where his longtime hero Dave Robicheaux appears. This one was no exception, but the gimmick here is that it's narrated by Dave's hotheaded friend and partner, Clete Purcel, instead of Dave himself. This worked OK for me. Clete turns out "in his own way" to be as sensitive, damaged, and haunted as Dave is.

That said, it didn't stop the publisher from putting "A Dave Robicheaux Novel" on the front cover.

Things start out innocuously enough: Clete leaves his treasured vintage Cadillac convertible at a car wash for detailing, only to discover it being torn apart by three thugs for some reason. Why? Well, they're looking for something, and when they fail to find it, they set upon Clete, suspecting that he's got it. What could it be? We don't find out until near the end. (And it turns out to be something that only exists in the JLB universe, but that's OK.)

The usual JLB plot elements are here. Bad guys with repulsive physical features, and even more repulsive ideologies. Rich bastards seemingly untouchable by the law. Corrupt cops. Decent cops. Unlikely coincidences and accidental revelations. Protagonists put through near-unendurable pain, both psychic and physical.

And, if you know the series, you know that Dave has supernatural visions, ever since (I think) In the Electric Mist With the Confederate Dead. Somewhat surprisingly, Clete has such visions too, involving (no additional spoilers, just a hint) a maid you've probably heard of, probably appropriate for the Louisiana setting.

It gets a little weird, by which I mean a lot more weird in the thrilling climax. That's fine; at this stage, JLB has earned the right to write it whatever way he likes.

Resistance is (Still) Facile

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

Bad news for those thinking that re-electing Trump will bring a new Era of Good Feelings: like me, Dan McLaughlin is old enough to remember 2017, and he predicts: The Resistance Sequel Will Be Even Worse

The New York Times thinks it’s important to tell you that “The Resistance to a New Trump Administration Has Already Started.” The importance to the Times of this message is underscored by its printing more than 2,800 words in the widely read Sunday edition, bylined to four senior national political reporters: Charlie Savage, Reid J. Epstein, Maggie Haberman, and Jonathan Swan. The article warns that “the early timing, volume and scale of the planning underway to push back against a potential second Trump administration are without precedent. . . . Interviews with more than 30 officials and leaders of organizations about their plans revealed a combination of acute exhaustion and acute anxiety.” That should tell us something right away: The Times senior national political brain trust thinks Joe Biden is going to lose. It’s time to start preparing for the wilderness, with all the thematic and rhetorical shifts that come with being the party out of power. And this is a more important message to deliver, in June, than happy talk about Biden’s prospects and Trump’s unpopularity.

The article is also chock-full of signs that the Resistance, like the Bourbons of old, has learned nothing and forgotten nothing. The whole piece exudes the legal and cultural left’s utter incapacity for self-awareness. Right up front, we’re told: “One group has hired a new auditor to withstand any attempt by a second Trump administration to unleash the Internal Revenue Service against them.”

What would that look like? The IRS conducting politically weaponized audits and defying congressional oversight, as it did under Barack Obama to the Tea Party? The IRS mailing out personalized campaign material for the president, as it did for Joe Biden in 2021? Leaks of the personal tax returns of political foes, as happened to Donald Trump and to which the Biden administration responded by embracing the outlets that published the illegal leaks?

Which sent me scurrying back to the Pun Salad 2017 archives, chronicling the good old days of pussy hats and Princess Leia "we are the resistance" mugs (see above). Just a few days after Trump's inauguration, Varad Mehta observed Resistance Is Facile:

The United States is not currently in the grip of a mass popular movement to overthrow its new president. You would never know this, however, from reading the breathless coverage of the protests against Donald Trump that have erupted in cities across the nation since he took office. Much of it reads like dispatches from the front, because that’s what it is physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Anti-Trump forces have cast themselves as a “resistance movement,” and the media has bought into this self-conception — not least, I suspect, because it fancies itself as the movement’s vanguard.

And New Hampshire's own Andrew Cline (in June 2017) claimed James Madison as the "real hero of the Trump Resistance". Accurate as always, Drew!

If your goal is to resist Trump’s agenda, you should swap your Princess Leia “Rebel, Rebel” T-shirt for one that sports the likeness of James Madison. You could even give him a mullet and color lightning bolts on his cheeks.

The “father of the Constitution,” Madison did more than any other person living or dead to restrain — or “resist,” if you prefer — President Trump. Madison’s constitutional framework has proven a much more effective check on Trump’s kinetic will than protesters sporting stylized genitalia on their heads.

To repeat a continuing, probably tiresome, Pun Salad theme: we coulda and shoulda nominated Nikki instead. I can't see this working out well for us at all.

Also of note:

  • But it's time to say something nice about J. D. And the NR editors say it: Senator Vance's Anti-DEI Bill Worth Supporting.

    Last week, Senator J. D. Vance and Representative Michael Cloud introduced the Dismantle DEI Act. It immediately attracted 20 cosponsors in Congress. We hope the momentum picks up.

    The bill would bar school-accreditation agencies from requiring DEI in schools, and stop financial agencies like Nasdaq and the New York Stock Exchange from instituting diversity requirements for corporate boards.

    The bill would also effectively rescind President Biden’s June 25, 2021, executive order, which pushed DEI requirements and ideas into “all parts of the Federal workforce.”

    J.D.'s press release is here and the text of the proposed legislation is here.

  • Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes? David Harsanyi has a simple request: Stop Trying To Convince Me Joe Biden Isn’t A Confused Old Man.

    Listen, I’d support a zombie for president if they promised to nominate originalists for the Supreme Court and deregulate the economy. Do whatever you have to do. But stop telling me that Joe Biden isn’t a mentally and physically fragile man.

    We can all watch the video of our octogenarian president awkwardly freezing up and staring out at a crowd before former president Barack Obama takes his arm and leads him off the stage.

    Now, I can tell you from experience, it isn’t normal for a grown man to grab another man’s arm in this manner — unless one of them needs help. If Biden was really in the robust physical and mental state that the White House maintains, Obama would have merely said something to Biden or given him a friendly tap on the shoulder. But like Dr. First Lady Jill Biden and White House handlers and world leaders, Obama was compelled to act as caretaker to a confused Joe Biden.

    Let's take a look at President Biden's recent remarks (official White House transcript) about his immigration tweaks. You can tell when he goes off-teleprompter:

    You know, I’ve often said doctors — we’ve been a significant consumer of healthcare in my family. Spent a lot of time in hospitals in — for our family. My — anyway. And I always said that doctors let you live; nurses make you want to live. Not a joke. A lot of time in ICU, a lot of time with my son, a lot of time —

    And, you know, it’s a — if there’s any angels in heaven, they’re all nurses — men and women. Not a joke.

    "Not a joke." That must be why nobody's laughing.

  • This slander must be refuted! Oh wait, he's right. James Riswick takes on a daunting task: All 50 U.S. license plates ranked, from best to California.

    Spoiler: New Hampshire's license plate ranks smack dab in the mediocre middle: #26. And of course LFOD shows up in Riswick's critique:

    I waffled a bit on this one, wondering if it was worthy of being in Tier 3, but nah, it's too busy. While that green color is Top 3 material when used as the background, it's difficult to read when used as the font. There's also both powder blue and pale green in the background, plus that Old Man of the Mountain that Granite Staters seem to love so much … and that collapsed all the way back in 2003. It's like Washington putting pre-1980 Mount St. Helens on its license plate.

    Now, as an aside, note the slogan: Live Free or Die. The presence of that slogan resulted in a Supreme Court case. New Hampshire resident George Maynard objected to being forced to drive around with that slogan on his car on religious grounds (he's a Jehovah's Witness). He covered it up with tape, received endless tickets and ended up being thrown in jail. Ironically, you lost your freedom in New Hampshire if you don't want to advertise Live Free or Die. Eventually, his case went to the Supreme Court that ruled the First Amendment protects your right NOT to speak, and specifically to this case, prevents you from being forced to say or display an ideological message you don't agree with. I'm guessing Mr. Maynard would probably have this plate lower on the list. 

    You can read about the Maynard case here. It's one of two deeply ironic things about our state's plates, the other being that they're stamped out in the state pen. Is it cruel and unusual punishment to have an prisoner crank out LFOD slogans day after day?

    Oh: Riswick has Colorado's plates in his top spot. And California at #50: "It's just so sad and lame."

Also, the Jabberwock

Sometimes I need to work backwards from an intriguing post. For example, here's Ramesh Ponnuru warning his readers to Beware the Cato Tax Plan. His analysis in its entirety:

It certainly sounds attractive as described by Dominic Pino. But I think it would have to amount to a big tax increase for most middle-class parents. I don’t see how it’d be possible to avoid this result when the plan would cut taxes for high-income earners and corporations, eliminate the child tax credit, and try to raise roughly as much money as the current income tax. I don’t think this would be an improvement in tax policy. I’m quite sure it would be politically suicidal.

Well, let's see what Dominic Pino has to say: Conservatives Should Be Talking about Eliminating the Federal Income Tax.

Donald Trump has made waves by talking about eliminating the individual income tax in favor of a system of tariffs for federal revenue. This proposal — if one can even call it that, as there is no detailed plan of how it would actually happen — is, to use one of politicians’ favorite euphemisms, aspirational.

The federal government raised about $4.5 trillion in revenue last year. Total U.S. imports last year were worth about $3.5 trillion. Raising tariffs will lead to fewer imports (and exports), which would mean less to tax. And the federal budget is coming up almost $2 trillion short as it is. The numbers just aren’t there.

But phasing out the federal income tax over time should be something for conservatives to pursue. Crazy? Right now, yes, but that doesn’t mean policy can’t move in that direction, making it more possible in the future to repeal the federal income tax.

Pino notes that a number of states have moved away from progressive income taxes, some moving to a flat tax, others getting rid of income taxes altogether. (Including New Hampshire, which is in the process of phasing out its tax on interest and dividends.)

But what about that Cato plan? Pino admits:

[Cato's Adam] Michel’s plan would have no chance of passing Congress as written. Way too many special-interest groups are harmed by having their special tax privileges removed, and they would send armies of lobbyists to make sure the plan dies. But this general approach — simplifying and flattening the tax code, by increasing the tax base and cutting tax rates — should guide conservative efforts at tax reform. [Trump's 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act] was a step in that direction, but there is still so much left to do.

So both Pino and Ponnuru agree there's not much chance of Cato's plan being enacted. So I'd suggest we not "beware" and look at the plan itself. (There's a 24-page PDF or the one-page HTML. Here's a bit of red meat for the libertarian angel sitting on my left shoulder:

Ideally, the federal government should shrink so much that the Sixteenth Amendment—which authorized the modern income tax—could be repealed outright. Short of repealing the Sixteenth Amendment, policymakers should continue pursuing reforms to the income tax system that alleviate double taxation and lower taxes on saving, investment, and work.

So in addition to being red meat, it's also blue-sky stuff. But the Cato plan is full of incremental ideas, low-hanging fruit that could actually happen, for example (footnotes elided):

Tax credits for the energy sector reduce revenue by $119 billion a year […]. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022 marked a significant shift in US energy policy, pairing costly and complicated regulatory requirements with open‐​ended tax subsidies to manipulate consumer and producer incentives toward politically popular energy sources. The tax code has included subsidies for wind and solar energy technologies for more than four decades. Instead of temporary support for nascent industries, the federal subsidies—which are larger in 2024 than any past year—create sclerotic, dependent industries reliant on perpetual public money rather than consumer demand.

So if you're into tax policy wonkery, check it out. But as Pino and Ponnuru note, it's not gonna happen, at least not in its entirety; too easy for populists on left and right to demagogue. And, as we've seen with proposals for entitlement reform, demagoguery works great in America these days.

Also of note:

  • Good question. Especially when it's asked by Kevin D. Williamson: Who Pays?

    You will have noticed Dominic Pino's drive-by debunking of Donald Trump's meandering wish to replace the Federal income tax with tariffs. KDW goes nuclear:

    If Donald Trump has a superpower, it is being so brazen and insistent in his stupidity and dishonesty that his lackeys, sycophants, and credulous marks have no choice but to adopt his stupidity and dishonesty as their own. This has happened to Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, to the whole of Fox News, and to countless little old church ladies who want to explain to me how January 6 was a false-flag operation. As heuristics go, that’s a time-saving line in the sand: Either people actually believe it when they repeat Trump’s baloney, in which case they are too stupid for further conversation to be of any value, or they don’t believe it, in which case they are dishonest—and there’s never any point talking to a dishonest person.

    Meet today’s contestant in “Stupid Or Dishonest?”—Republic National Committee spokeswoman Anna Kelly, who claimed: “The notion that tariffs are a tax on U.S. consumers is a lie pushed by outsourcers and the Chinese Communist Party.” As a specimen of Trumpist baloney, that is just about perfect: It is a lie, it is easily disproved, and it contains a preemptive strike accusing the people who are going to point out that it is a stupid, easily disproved lie of operating in bad faith.

    Why this nonsense from the RNC right now?

    Donald Trump has put forward the idiotic suggestion that we should replace the entire federal revenue system with tariffs, which would necessitate tripling the cost (very likely, more than tripling the cost) of imported goods—meaning gasoline, diesel, crude oil, pharmaceuticals, and other leading imports—and inflating the price of domestically produced alternatives to boot. That would mean, for example, that the $320 billion a year or so we spend on imported oil and gas ends up costing U.S. consumers nearly $1 trillion, and our $170 billion annual tab for imported pharmaceuticals would go to a little more than a half-trillion dollars.

    I am sure that, assuming he still has some lucid moments, Joe Biden is saying "I Can't Believe I'm Losing To This Guy".

  • I bet readers will get this right. Stephen Green has a poser: Guess How Many High-Speed Internet Connections Biden Built With $42.45 billion.

    You've read more than once right here at PJ Media about the $7.5 billion that Presidentish Joe Biden's Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act put on the table as an inducement to build a network of 500,000 EV charging stations up and down the nation's interstate highways. And you've read about how few have been built — eight, at last count.

    Well, that was a bargain compared to today's boondoggle.

    The same law also set aside $42.45 billion — that's three Ford-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers — to deploy high-speed internet to millions of Americans who currently lack access. That mostly means rural folks, who are usually the last to get anything new, like drug-resistant herpes or imaginary personal pronouns. 

    This is the part of the column where I'd ask you to guess how many Americans had been wired for high-speed internet after 2.5 years and all of those billions, and then you'd say, "Zero?" and then we'd both say we need a drink.

    Because the answer truly is a big, fat zero.

    FCC commissioner Brendan Carr posted to X a few days ago, "Mostly, the $42.45B is just sitting there. Not even one shovel's worth of dirt has been turned."

    Coincidentally, my CongressCritter tweeted (Xed?) yesterday:

    Yes, readers, a plan—or at least, an "initial proposal"—has been approved. It involves "more than" $196 million!

    I assume that means less than $197 million.

    In any case, that's about 0.46% of that $42.45 billion Green quotes. And that's just approval of the initial proposal. From the press release, there is no big hurry to start stringing fiber:

    One year from Initial Proposal approval, states must submit a Final Proposal that details, among other things, the outcome of the subgrantee selection process and how the state will ensure universal coverage.

    In the meantime, apparently, judging from Pappas's cheery tweet, the "digital equity gap" will remain open; businesses will be unable to compete; communities will unthrive; Granite Staters will continue to not succeed.

  • Recycling is (still) garbage. Frank Celia points out an unclothed emperor: Recycling Plastic Is a Dangerous Waste of Time.

    By now, you probably know that plastic recycling is a scam. If not, this white paper lays out the case in devastating detail. To summarise, amid calls to reduce plastic garbage in the 1970s and ’80s, the petrochemical industry put forth recycling as a red herring to create the appearance of a solution while it continued to make as much plastic as it pleased. Multiple paper trails indicate that industry leaders knew from the start that recycling could never work at scale. And indeed, it hasn’t. Only about nine percent of plastic worldwide gets recycled, and the US manages only about six percent.

    As bad as this is, the situation might actually be much worse. According to an emerging field of study, the facilities that recycle plastic have been spewing massive amounts of toxins called microplastics into local waterways, soil, and air for decades. In other words, the very industry created to solve the plastic-waste problem has only succeeded in making it worse, possibly exponentially so. While the study that kicked off this new field received some press coverage when it appeared last year, the far-ranging import of its findings has yet to be fully integrated into environmental science. If the research is even close to accurate, and to date it has not been substantively challenged, the implications for waste management policies across the globe will be game-changing.

    I'm not a fan of the industry-blaming here. Governments (at all levels) are not blameless, helpless puppets of Big Plastic.

    I'm also not a fan of the "microplastics" alarmism.

    But, yes, recycling is pointless and stupid.

What Would We Do Without the San Francisco Unified School District?

They provided this poster to Parents Defending Education, who shared it with the Whole Wide World:

It's not new; the poster points to a possible original version here and also, in very small print, sends you to dRworksBook ("Dismantling Racism Works web workbook"). And if you want to go down that rabbit hole, good luck to you.

I noticed a few things about the tone. Disparaging "white supremacy" is key. White supremacy is marked by "fear" and "defensiveness". Cowardly chickens, they are! Also prone to superstition: the "written word" is not just valued for its utility, it's literally worshipped.

And you have to love the poster's criticism of "either/or thinking". When every other little colored rectangle on the poster exemplifies "either/or thinking".

But overall, it really sounds like a mashup of gripes from employees that just aren't functioning very well in their workplace, and blaming "white supremacy" for it.

Which brings us to Jeff Maurer's reflection on how sometimes he doesn't fit in with predominant prejudices: My Culture Involves Blasting Farts Whenever I Want.

This week, The Atlantic’s Twitter account re-upped a recent article called “Why Do Rich People Love Quiet?” The article argued that rich, white people (the words “rich” and “white” are used interchangeably in the article) value quiet spaces, while non-rich, non-white people tend to come from loud, urban areas where keeping quiet is not the norm. I thought the article was fascinating for several reasons. First, I would have thought that saying “non-white people are all poor and live in the ghetto where it’s noisy and that’s why they’re loud all the time” would be considered unbelievably racist. But apparently that’s anti-racist — who knew? I am so glad that The Atlantic hired a non-white writer with blonde hair and blue eyes to tell me how all non-white people behave.

But even more interesting were the authors’ views on culture. She didn’t just argue that there are different cultural norms about noise, which is surely correct. She argued that when people with different cultural norms mix, a zero-sum battle for cultural dominance ensues. I had always thought that when people share a space, they reach an understanding about behavioral norms — in fact, I sort of thought that understanding is what culture is! But the author sees culture as fixed, inviolable, and attached to your race in an innate way. And, remember: That view is anti-racist, even though it’s also exactly what racist people believe.

Yes. Click through for the fart jokes, they're pretty funny. But note how much of the poster above can be used to reinforce racist beliefs:

  • "Worship of the written word? Yeah, white people are more literate than you, person of color!"
  • "Sense of urgency? Yeah, white people like to get things done today, not mañana or sometime next month, person of color!"
  • "Perfectionism? Yeah, white people like things done right, not the half-assed, sloppy efforts we're likely to get from you, person of color!"
  • "Individualism? Gee, it sounds like you want to coast on the accomplishments of your team, instead of your own, person of color!"
  • "Objectivity? Well, being a pig-ignorant racist, I'm not sure what that means exactly, but it sounds like you might be averse to impartial and unbiased judgment of your work quality, person of color!"

I know, it's bad of me to even imagining to think that way. But the San Francisco Unified School District makes it way too easy.

Also of note:

  • Another alleged characteristic of white supremacy. Last row, rightmost column of that stupid poster above: "Progress is Bigger, More".

    Now, I should mention that a lot of management droids do measure their success in terms of the size of their department budget, number of employees bossed, mentions at higher levels of the pyramid.

    But in criticising progress, some have their sights at more macro levels. That deserves rebuttal as well, and Andrew Follett provides it. Degrowth is a Dead End.

    America should destroy its economy and pay climate reparations to other countries in the name of “degrowth,” because that will somehow help the environment. Or at least that is the conclusion of a suspiciously friendly interview between the New York Times and an actual professed eco-Marxist.

    The article, by New York Times book critic Jennifer Szalai, ran with the tagline: “economic growth has been ecologically costly — and so a movement in favor of ‘degrowth’ is growing.”

    Degrowth means reducing industrial civilization and turning back the clock to an era when humans allegedly affected the environment less. It’s a literal “return to nature” that often intersects with the desire to lower the human population, supposedly to reduce its harm to nature.

    “Economists like Paul Krugman and data scientists like Hannah Ritchie have maintained that technological advances mean that economic prosperity doesn’t have to lead to ecological degradation,” Szalai writes. But for degrowthers, that’s a cop-out. “We have plundered the planet instead of figuring out more egalitarian ways to live with one another.”

    Charity demands that we assume "degrowth" advocates are acting with good intentions. But, gee, you have to ignore a lot of economics and history to see their policies as anything other than condemning the world to poverty and filth.

  • Spoiler: KDW's subhed is "Pick Two". Kevin D. Williamson looks at arguably desirable product qualities: Good, Cheap, and American-Made. Skipping down a bit:

    And so the current convulsions in Washington and Brussels about Chinese EVs: Climate change is an existential emergency, they tell us, and it is essential that we mitigate the effects of vehicular emissions by switching to EVs where possible. But voters do not want to pay high prices for EVs, and domestic producers do not want to be made to compete with EVs made in places—namely China—where it is relatively cheap to make them. So, we must drive EVs, but we cannot drive either the expensive ones or the inexpensive ones. The Biden administration is putting a 100 percent tariff on Chinese EVs, the European Union is putting an almost 50 percent tariff on Chinese EVs, and Donald Trump is out there promising to outdo whatever Biden does, bigly.

    You can have your EVs and your EV mandates. You can have your EVs without imposing enormous costs on American consumers who are used to paying reasonable prices and getting excellent vehicles from good old-fashioned American manufacturers such as … Toyota and Mercedes-Benz. But what you can’t have is all that at “Made in China” prices with “Made in the USA” manufacturing costs. Cheap, good, American-made: Pick two. 

    I assume I will be driving my Impreza foreva.

  • I have dim memories of the March of Dimes. I came in on the tail end. But the organization "goes on, even though the thrill of living is gone". John Tierney draws a more general lesson about The March of Dimes Syndrome.

    In the spring of 1979, a few weeks after the partial meltdown of a nuclear reactor at Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania, more than 65,000 people marched on the United States Capitol chanting “No Nukes, No Nukes.” As a young reporter at the Washington Star assigned to cover this new movement, I interviewed march organizers and noticed that all of them had previously organized protests against the Vietnam War. This struck me as curious: How had they suddenly become so passionate and knowledgeable about nuclear power?

    I later learned that a term exists for this phenomenon—the March of Dimes syndrome—and that the tendency affects many other movements, too. Why, last year, did the Human Rights Campaign declare a “national state of emergency” for LGBT people? Why was the election of the first black American president followed by the Black Lives Matter movement? Why have reports of “hate groups” risen during the same decades that racial prejudice has been plummeting? Why, during a long and steep decline in the incidence of sexual violence in America, did academics, federal officials, and the #MeToo movement discover a new “epidemic of sexual assault”?

    These supposed crises are all examples of the March of Dimes syndrome, named after the organization founded in the 1930s to combat polio. The March helped fund the vaccines that eventually ended the polio epidemics—but not the organization, which, after polio’s eradication, changed its mission to preventing birth defects. Its leaders kept their group going by finding a new cause, just as antiwar activists did after achieving their goal of ending the Vietnam War. The Three Mile Island accident offered new fund-raising opportunities and a new platform for veterans of the antiwar movement such as Jane Fonda and her husband Tom Hayden, who both addressed the crowd at that first antinuke rally.

    We could also call it the "We've gotta protect our phony baloney jobs!" Syndrome.

Last Modified 2024-06-18 5:06 PM EDT

Smarter Than They Look, I Guess

Today's musical question posed by Andrew Heaton: Why Are We Funding Harvard? If you're like me, you'll greet this Reason video from Andrew Heaton with a Costellovian mixture of disgust and amusement:

Some text:

Harvard's endowment grows faster than its annual tuition costs every year. It literally has enough money to cover the tuition for every student forever, without any financial assistance from taxpayers. So why are we taking tax dollars away from the 99 percent of Americans who never went to an Ivy League college and giving it to the incubation chamber of tomorrow's trust-fund tycoons?

Heaton strikes a very good balance between outrage and hilarity.

Also of note:

  • A belated Father's Day link. Kevin D. Williamson goes unexpectedly heartwarming in the NYPost: Four babies in two years makes a very special Father's Day.

    On Father’s Day of 2022, I didn’t have any children. On Father’s Day 2024, I have four little boys.

    We had been expecting the first boy in 2022 — the identical triplets, born earlier this year, were a surprise.

    When you tell people you have triplets, the first thing they ask is whether you underwent IVF.

    For the record, you can engineer fraternal twins or triplets via IVF — you just insert two or three embryos at once.

    Identical triplets just happen.

    Identicals are what happen when you and your wife talk about how you wish you’d met earlier in life so you could have had a bigger family, and God, who listens and has a sense of humor, says: “All right, big shot — let’s see how you do.”

    Pictures at the link, and if you don't go Awwww, I'm not sure I want you reading my blog.

  • One more belated Father's Day link. But no more after this, I swear. If you weren't irked by the Andrew Heaton video above, maybe this will do it. Eric Boehm reports: The Federal Government Is Funding Dad Jokes.

    "Did you hear the one about the world's greatest watch thief? He stole all the time."

    But even that guy might be impressed by the sticky fingers of the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse (NRFC), a tiny corner of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that managed to pilfer nearly $75 million in taxpayer money last year to maintain, among other things, an official government repository of "dad jokes."

    It's funny—but not in a good way.

    The agency's website is the source of the cringey joke above, along with other forehead-slappers such as "Why don't you ever see elephants hiding in trees? Because they are really good at it," and "Have you seen the new type of broom? It's sweeping the nation."

    To be honest, these jokes are better than the ones on the back pages of the AARP Bulletin.

  • Hey kids, what time is it? According to Joanna Williams at Spiked, it's Time to retire the ‘far right’ slur.

    As the EU establishment struggles to make sense of last week’s revolt in the European elections, one thing is clear: our outdated vocabulary is not up to the task of describing today’s political landscape.

    Gains for France’s National Rally, Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy and the Alternative for Germany (AfD) have been described as a ‘far-right surge’ in newspapers and TV reports, not just across Europe but around the world. Even before the election results came in, labels like far right and extreme right were bouncing off commentators’ keyboards. All agree that the far right is on the rise and ordinary people need to worry. This is Europe’s ‘Trump moment’, explained Politico. Some go further. Marine Le Pen’s National Rally is described as ‘neo-fascist’, while academics calmly ask if the AfD is the new Nazi Party. ‘Fascism has arrived’, declared French author Emilia Roig when the election results became clear. Yet with almost a quarter of Europe’s voters having backed a party branded ‘far right’, it is worth asking how accurate this label is and what purpose it now serves.

    The article has a European tilt, but (come on) it's clear the same thing is happening in the US, with the MSM deeming "far right" as, roughly, anyone more conservative than Susan Collins.

  • Well, this is sad. I've been an Eric Clapton fan since I first heard Layla. I have a lot of his music. (Even his clunker, "August".)

    But now, in this article from Ed Driscoll: Strange Brew: Eric Clapton’s Anti-Israeli Turn. It's a history of his, um, controversial remarks, starting with his substance-fueled Enoch Powell appreciation in the 1970s. And his anti-vax stuff more recently. But now, quoting "David Lange of the Israellycool blog":

    But now Clapton has outdone himself when it comes to displaying his own antisemitism, moral bankruptcy and hypocrisy. In an interview with The Real Music Observer YouTube channel, he criticizes the Senate hearings into antisemitism on US college campuses, while stating that Israel is running the world (a clear antisemitic trope). At the same time, he fawns over Putin, Russia, and China – who he claims are all unfairly demonized – while expressing the desire to play there with his “brother” Roger Waters:

    [Instagram embed elided]

    There is little doubt in my mind that Clapton is a raging antisemite, much like “brother” Roger. Besides the clear antisemitic trope, his love of human rights violators Russia and China and his characterization of them as “‘unfairly attacked” reveals a great deal about the double standards by which he judges the world’s only Jewish state. Heck, he even shows tacit support for Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, which is not nearly as justified as Israel’s actions in Gaza now.

    If only Clapton took his own advice when it comes to Russia and China and actually visited Israel in order to get an accurate picture of the situation – not that I think it would make a difference to someone with this much prejudice against Jews.

    I won't be deleting the Clapton tracks from my iTunes library, but I'm pretty sure I won't be throwing any more dollars his way.

Like Sands Through the Hourglass

So Are the Days of Our Lives

If you prefer words to go with that, Mr. Ramirez suggests Byron York's column in the Jewish World Review: The Biden issue that won't go away

On Monday evening, the president attended a Juneteenth concert on the White House lawn. It wasn't a complicated event, as presidential appearances go. All President Joe Biden had to do was walk out of the White House, join the crowd listening to the music, and make some brief remarks.

It didn't go well. As the music played, Biden took his place on a front row that included Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Douglas Emhoff, actor Billy Porter (wearing a "rainbow sequined caftan … accessorized with bedazzled ankle boots," according to Women's Wear Daily), and, next to Biden, Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd.

It didn't go well. As the music played, Biden took his place on a front row that included Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband, Douglas Emhoff, actor Billy Porter (wearing a "rainbow sequined caftan … accessorized with bedazzled ankle boots," according to Women's Wear Daily), and, next to Biden, Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd.

Everyone was standing and swaying and clapping to singer Kirk Franklin's performance. Everyone, that is, except Biden. As the scene unfolded around him, the president stood still and absolutely motionless, his hands hanging by his side. His face had a frozen expression, and his eyes seemed fixed, staring straight ahead. This went on for about a minute.

Look at your watch or phone and set it for a minute. It's a long time. Biden was briefly engaged by Floyd, then resumed staring. Finally, he seemed to come out of it, ending the episode.

And the video in question:

I have to confess, I somewhat sympathize with Frozen Joe. I'd probably not want to embarrass myself by pretending to boogie either.

And in our weekly look at Election Betting Odds, there's finally some movement at the bottom: RFKJr has dropped below our 2% inclusion threshold, but Kamala and Gavin have risen above:

Candidate EBO Win
Donald Trump 54.4% +1.8%
Joe Biden 35.5% -2.3%
Michelle Obama 3.2% -0.4%
Gavin Newsom 2.7% ---
Kamala Harris 2.2% ---
Other 2.0% -2.0%

And Bone Spurs opened up an additional 4.1 percentage points in his probability lead over President Wheezy.

And yes, that's as exciting as Sunday mornings get around here at Pun Salad Manor.

Also of note:

  • Useful questions followed by depressing answers. George Will has some Questions for the Biden-Trump ‘debate’ that might be useful. Number One:

    The Social Security Trust Fund will be exhausted by 2033. Under current law, benefits then will be reduced 21 percent. The Biden-Trump consensus includes vowing not to diminish the entitlements (Social Security, Medicare) that are producing deficits that just added $1 trillion to the national debt in eight months. Would you favor a multitrillion-dollar tweak: infusing Social Security with more borrowing, meaning debt? (Tax revenue is insufficient to cover the other government expenditures.) If not that solution, what?

    Other topics: protectionism, Constitutional fidelity, Taiwan, Ukraine, the filibuster, illegal immigrants, DC statehood, Israel's war tactics, military enlistment, tax cuts, the SALT deduction, threats to democracy. Check it out, imagine the likely answers, try not to do anything unhealthy as a result.

  • Another reminder of my political homelessness. Coming from Rikki Schlott in the NYPost: We’re libertarians who refuse to vote for the party’s ridiculous presidential candidate.

    I’m a libertarian, but I’m totally turned off by the party. And I’m not alone, especially now that Chase Oliver is its 2024 candidate.

    Although libertarian ideology has mass appeal, the party has consistently alienated voters with outlandish antics and out-of-touch nominees, and this election cycle is no exception.

    Since Oliver won the Libertarian primary late last month, the former Georgia Senate candidate has been going viral for some of his more lefty stances.

    In resurfaced clips, the 38-year-old has been dragged for publicly advocating for defunding the police “until [they] restore trust with the people,” describing drag queen story hours as “performance art,” advocating for open borders and defending gender-affirming care for transgender kids as “the status quo.”

    And in other news… well, actually kinda the same news … our local party finds Oliver has failed their ideological purity test:

    You know what they say: when you've lost the LPNH, you've … just lost the LPNH.

  • Attention must be paid. Ann Althouse claims a new record has been set: This is the stupidest thing I've ever seen in The New York Times.

    I'm reading "A Hollywood Heavyweight Is Biden’s Secret Weapon Against Trump/The longtime movie mogul Jeffrey Katzenberg always sought scary villains for his films. Now he has found what he considers a real-life one in Donald J. Trump."

    Trim and wiry, intense but amiable, Mr. Katzenberg at age 73 still exudes a kind of ambitious, animal energy as if he were one of his movie protagonists. He is famous around Hollywood, and now Washington, for rising at 5 a.m. and riding an exercise bicycle for 90 minutes while simultaneously reading four newspapers before taking as many as three breakfast meetings — and waffles or eggs-and-extra-crispy-bacon breakfasts, not the leafy California kind. “The guy eats like a horse and he doesn’t gain any weight,” his close friend Casey Wasserman, the sports, music and entertainment mogul, groused good-naturedly.

    Are Biden supporters in such deep delusion that they would take comfort from this "secret weapon"? This inane filler says: Time to panic!

    Apparently the idea is to have Katzenberg engineer the Biden campaign as if it were a Disney movie. (One of the good ones, not Lightyear or The BFG!) Putting Donald J. Trump into the villain role, like Jafar or Ursula, or…

    Or something. Problem is putting Biden in a hero role. Do you see him as Aladdin? Or more like Pinocchio? Or maybe Dumbo?

Recently on the book blog:
Recently on the movie blog:

Hit Man

[3.5 stars] [IMDB Link] [Hit Man]

This Netflix movie got an intriguing review from Peter Suderman at Reason, so (as they say) why not? It is genre-icized at IMDB as "Action, Comedy, Crime", but I'd add the caveat that the comedy is pretty dark.

Glen Powell plays Gary Johnson, an affable instructor at the local college. But he moonlights as the technical guy for a small squad of cops with a unique specialty: one of them poses as a hired assassin, then when money changes hands, the team swoops in to arrest the "customer".

Apparently it's illegal to even hire a hit man, even a pretend one. Go figure.

Anyway, one day an unexpected emergency occurs, and Gary is enlisted to play the fake hit man. It turns out he's good at it! So good that he becomes the regular fake, and the previous one gets relegated to backup status. Causing some hard feelings.

Further complication: one customer turns out to be a beautiful woman, Madison. And while discussing things with Gary, she displays ambivalence. Gary talks her out of the deal, but… oops, it seems he's got himself romantically involved. And then things get really complicated. It's a screwball comedy, except with killing.

For a slightly more sophisticated analysis of what's going on, see the Suderman review linked above. I have to admit being disappointed in the ending.

The Hunter

(paid link)

Tana French's sequel of sorts to The Searcher, which I read back in 2021. Three years ago! And I've never been good about retaining plot/character details in my head, and this is something that hasn't improved with age.

It continues the saga of Cal, an ex-cop from Chicago who's settled down in small-town Ireland for his retirement. He's got a girlfriend, and he's also grown attached to Trey, a troubled teenager. The mystery of what happened to her older brother was resolved to everyone else's semi-satisfaction in the previous book, but not to hers.

Into this unstable situation comes Trey's estranged father, Johnny, who's in league with an (alleged) English millionaire. They've come (they claim) to track down rumors of gold in the area. They attempt to enlist the aid of the locals; the locals see it as an opportunity to put one over on the millionaire.

And it takes a long time before someone finally turns up dead, which brings in a detective from the Dublin Murder Squad named Nealon. (I don't remember him from previous books, but—see above—I probably wouldn't.)

I might be wrong about this too: Ms. French has never been particularly funny in her past books, but I thought there were some pretty amusing scenes and dialog in this one, especially in the early going. Fair play to her.

Why I Subscribe to the Wall Street Journal

You may have seen some version of the Pope Francis/President Joe picture from the G-7 Summit. (Getty version at your right.) The WSJ had it at the top of page one this morning, and the associated headline was

In a G-7 First, Heads of State Meet

You laughed, right? The below-pic caption was also pretty good:

SKULL SESSION: Pope Francis and President Biden, a Catholic, talk Friday as leaders of the Group of Seven industrialized nations met in Savelletri, Italy. Francis became the first pontiff to address a G-7 summit, warning of the risks of artificial intelligence.

"Skull session". Ha!

If you'd like to read the WSJ's serious article on the doings, here's a gifted link: G-7 Nations Criticize Chinese Subsidies, High-Tech Exports.

Or instead, check out the Bablyon Bee's headline: Biden Disappointed After Huge Scoop Of Vanilla Ice Cream Turns Out To Be Pope Francis. You can click over for the article, but as usual for the Bee, 90% of the laughs are in the headline.

Also of note:

  • Unexpectedly! Dominic Pino, subbing for Audrey Fahlberg, who is subbing for Jim Geraghty, reports some good news: Affordable Connectivity Program: Web Welfare Expired, and the Sky Hasn’t Fallen.

    The impossible has happened: A welfare program ended. Congress created a web-welfare program on an “emergency” basis during the Covid pandemic, and, in classic Washington form, politicians tried to make it permanent. They rebranded it the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) and gave it billions in extra funding. The program provided subsidies of up to $30 per month to qualifying households for broadband-internet service.

    It began providing benefits in May 2021 and accumulated over 20 million enrollees. Congress did not give it more funding, though, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which was responsible for administering it, stopped accepting new enrollees in February of this year. The ACP paid its last benefits on May 31, and all funding for it has been exhausted.

    Are millions of people losing internet access? No. We knew that wouldn’t happen, even though ACP supporters were fearmongering that it would.

    Pino also points out the program was fraud-ridden. And (like the local example I talked about yesterday, it was billed as "emergency" pandemic relief. Even though there was no emergency. And nobody got any subsidies until after the pandemic was on the way out.

  • Fauci is getting grouchy. Jon Miltimore notes that there probably was no "The Buck Stops Here" sign in his office: Fauci’s ‘Don’t Blame Me’ Testimony and the Government Accountability Problem.

    Dr. Anthony Fauci was at the Capitol recently following revelations that his top adviser, Dr. David Morens, and other National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases officials took active steps to avoid Freedom of Information Act requests, including destroying records and intentionally misspelling names to avoid searches.

    Fauci conceded that mistakes were made, just not by him.

    “That was wrong and inappropriate and violated policy,” Fauci said of Morens’s scheme to “disappear” problematic emails. “He should not have done that.”

    Fauci’s chief of staff was in on the scheme. Emails show that Gregory Folkers intentionally misspelled the name of Kristian Andersen, a tactic Morens suggested to avoid FOIA, after Andersen received an $8.9 million NIAID grant, which came two months after he authored a paper arguing that it was “improbable” that COVID-19 had a lab origin.

    This is why the adjective you seem to see preceding "bureaucrat" most often is "unaccountable".

    But speaking of appropriate adjectives…

  • I might have said "ignorant" instead. But Eric Boehm used a slightly milder adjective: J.D. Vance's Incoherent Argument for Higher Minimum Wages. Quoting from Vance's NYT interview, Boehm's emphasis: :

    The populist vision, at least as it exists in my head, is an inversion of [the postwar American order of globalization]: applying as much upward pressure on wages and as much downward pressure on the services that the people use as possible. We've had far too little innovation over the last 40 years, and far too much labor substitution. This is why I think the economics profession is fundamentally wrong about both immigration and about tariffs. Yes, tariffs can apply upward pricing pressure on various things—though I think it's massively overstated—but when you are forced to do more with your domestic labor force, you have all of these positive dynamic effects.

    It's a classic formulation: You raise the minimum wage to $20 an hour, and you will sometimes hear libertarians say this is a bad thing. "Well, isn't McDonald's just going to replace some of the workers with kiosks?" That's a good thing, because then the workers who are still there are going to make higher wages; the kiosks will perform a useful function; and that's the kind of rising tide that actually lifts all boats. What is not good is you replace the McDonald's worker from Middletown, Ohio, who makes $17 an hour with an immigrant who makes $15 an hour. And that is, I think, the main thrust of elite liberalism, whether people acknowledge it or not.


    The basic fallacy here is one that President Joe Biden, former President Donald Trump, and plenty of other politicians make regularly: They talk as though America is made up of one group of people who are "workers" and another group who are "consumers."

    If this was so, you could focus on policies that raise wages for one group—the workers—at the expense of the other. But since most people are sometimes a worker and other times a consumer, policies that artificially apply "upward pressure on wages" also apply upward pressure on the prices consumers pay (because those wages have to come from somewhere). If you want to see how this plays out in reality, just look at California's experience with a $20 minimum wage. Prices have skyrocketed and jobs are being lost.

    I am no longer a "worker", just a "consumer", but I see his point.

  • The Day of the Censor. Larry Taunton has a really interesting article about a classy older gent: How Novelist Frederick Forsyth Learned He'd Been 'Bowdlerized'. Specifically, his 1084 novel, The Fourth Protocol:

    The Fourth Protocol is a political thriller in which the Soviets attempt to detonate a nuclear device next to an American military base in Britain. The novel contains fictitious letters from the very real English traitor Kim Philby — and still very much alive at the time of the book’s publication — to the general secretary of the Communist Party. A former MI6 operative and one of the infamous “Cambridge Five” in real life, the fictitious Philby, now in exile in Moscow, explains to his communist hosts how British democracy might be subverted from within via a classic “march through the institutions”:

    …all history teaches that soundly based democracies can only be toppled by mass action in the streets when the police and armed forces have been sufficiently penetrated by the revolutionaries that large numbers of them can be expected to refuse to obey the orders of their officers and side instead with the demonstrators….

    Our friends have done what they can. Since taking control of numerous large metropolitan authorities, through the press and the media, at every level high and low, they have either themselves, or using wild young people of the Trotskyite [i.e., communist] splinter factions as shock troops, carried out an unrelenting campaign to denigrate, vilify and undermine the British police. The aim, of course, is to vitiate or destroy the confidence of the British public in their police, which unfortunately remains the most affable and disciplined in the world….

    I have narrated all of this only to substantiate one argument … that the path [to socialism] now lies though … the largely successful campaign of the Hard Left to take over the Labour Party from inside…

    Paragraphs like these, numerous and detailing Marxist strategy, jolted me from the work of cutting hay for my horses. This was not merely fiction. It was a road map for the overthrow of Western governments. More than that, it was precisely what we were seeing taking place in America’s streets in the carefully orchestrated riots of Antifa, BLM, and the whole “Defund the Police” agenda.

    And these paragraphs have been removed from later printings of The Fourth Protocol. Without Forsyth's knowledge apparently.

    I await the outcry from the folks who are incessantly incensed about the "book banners". But I'm not holding my breath.

Campaign Signs Going Up Early

Snapped on South Street in Rollinsford during my dog walk yesterday morning:

Once again, the DC Shuffle in action:

  1. Uncle Stupid takes our tax dollars;
  2. Sends some of it back to us;
  3. Acts like he's done us a favor.

In this case, it's replacement of some antiquated water lines, so it's pretty close to literal trickle-down economics. The funding is specifically credited to the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which dumped $1.9 trillion-with-a-t of Federal Funny Money on us. It was billed as a response to the pandemic. Despite the sign claiming "bipartisan", I don't think a single Republican voted in favor.

Specifically naming "President Joe Biden" on the sign is a nice touch, though. Which brings us to Christian Schneider's recent observation: Joe Biden Is a Weird Liar. Recent example:

On Tuesday, shortly after his son Hunter was found guilty of breaking federal gun laws, Joe Biden stood in front of a pro-gun-control group, buttressing his anti-gun position with phony credentials.

“When I was no longer the vice president, I became a professor at the University of Pennsylvania,” Biden said, adding that he had previously “taught the Second Amendment” in a constitutional-law class.

Of course, Biden was a “professor” at Penn in the same way a powdered beef-flavored ramen noodle packet contains filet mignon. Biden — evidently unaware this information is available on the internet — was paid nearly a million dollars to be a “professor” but never taught any classes; he was effectively there as a figurehead to attract donors. In fact, with his degree from the Wharton School of Business, Donald Trump has seen four more years’ worth of Penn classrooms than Biden has. (In fairness, Biden did spend years teaching a constitutional-law class, but it was at Widener University. On Tuesday, he was clearly trying to get some of that Ivy League shine.)

Schneider notes that, like many politicians, "Biden lies about things that benefit him politically." Not admirable, but that sort of, at least, makes sense.

But most of the time, Biden’s lies are about weird, creepy things for which he actually has no reason to lie. Things that don’t help him with voters but that he seems to think make him more interesting.

The cannibalized uncle. Corn Pop. Semi driver. Rule of thumb. Etc.

Also of note:

  • Speaking of bipartisanship, maybe he could get dog-handling advice from Kristi Noem? In the too-good-to-check department: Biden repeatedly watched his dog attack Secret Service as staff wished each other ‘safe shift’.

    President Biden repeatedly watched his German shepherd Commander attack Secret Service members, who wished each other a “safe shift” as the number of incidents mounted — with one exasperated workplace safety professional urging the use of a muzzle, agency records show.

    The number of dog attacks involving Commander, who the White House said in February was given away after more than two years of terrorizing professionals assigned to protect Biden; and former first dog Major, who was rehomed in 2021 after also attacking personnel; could top three dozen, the newly surfaced records suggest.

    The 81-year-old president reportedly accused a Secret Service member of lying about being attacked by Major during his first year in office, but was present for at least three separate attacks involving Commander, files released to Judicial Watch under Freedom of Information Act litigation show.

    Maybe the Secret Service should stop wearing the Pup-Peroni flavored pants.

  • Tell the truth, go to jail. The NR editors weigh in: DOJ Persecuting Trans-Medicine Whistleblower Eithan Haim.

    Following pressure from GOP state officials, in March 2022, Texas Children’s Hospital publicly announced that it would no longer be offering transgender drugs and surgeries to minors. This was a lie. Behind closed doors — and away from public scrutiny — the hospital continued its medically dubious regimen.

    We know this thanks to Eithan Haim, a courageous resident surgeon who leaked evidence of the hospital’s subterfuge to City Journal’s Christopher Rufo. In a matter of days, Haim’s whistleblower testimony prompted Republican state legislators to pass a bill outlawing the use of transgender drugs and surgeries in pediatric medicine.

    Not everyone was grateful for this public service.

    In June 2023, the day Haim was set to graduate from the hospital’s residency program, two federal agents showed up at his home and informed him that he was a potential target in a criminal investigation relating to medical documents. Concerned that he was being targeted for political reasons, Haim came forward with his identity and the Biden administration’s investigation of him.

    There is, I suppose, reason to be cautious, because we're only hearing one side. But…

  • I'm pretty sure Hunter Biden has no sympathy for Kevin D. Williamson. But KDW has Sympathy for Hunter Biden.

    The Bible tells us we are supposed to pray for our enemies—even the worst of them. Adolf Hitler, Osama bin Laden—there isn’t an asterisk that says, “… unless they’re really bad, in which case, never mind.” I myself have a hard time not wishing ill on people who use speakerphones in public—or, you know, resisting the urge to take active measures

    Hunter Biden isn’t even my enemy. He’s just a garden-variety dumbass with a very famous father. But it still isn’t easy to be sympathetic. Not for me, anyway. 

    That isn’t something to be proud of. Whatever the madding crowd may try to convince you in 2024, hatred is not a marker of moral seriousness, clarity, or urgency. It’s just a natural itch that it feels good to scratch, and we happen to live in a society that feels the need to moralize its pleasures.

    It's a good lesson, and I hope it isn't paywalled.

  • But I suspect they are not hiding in Washington D. C. A provocative hypothesis from Smart People University: Harvard Scientists Say There May Be an Unknown, Technologically Advanced Civilization Hiding on Earth.

    What if — stick with us here — an unknown technological civilization is hiding right here on Earth, sheltering in bases deep underground and possibly even emerging with UFOs or disguised as everyday humans?

    In a new paper that's bound to raise eyebrows in the scientific community, a team of researchers from Harvard and Montana Technological University speculates that sightings of "Unidentified Anomalous Phemonemona" (UAP) — bureaucracy-speak for UFOs, basically — "may reflect activities of intelligent beings concealed in stealth here on Earth (e.g., underground), and/or its near environs (e.g., the Moon), and/or even 'walking among us' (e.g., passing as humans)."

    Yes, that's a direct quote from the paper. Needless to say, the researchers admit, this idea of hidden "crypoterrestrials" is a highly exotic hypothesis that's "likely to be regarded skeptically by most scientists." Nonetheless, they argue, the theory "deserves genuine consideration in a spirit of epistemic humility and openness."

    There's a link to the "new paper" in the article, but it doesn't work for me.

    Could the cover-up alreadly be in place?

Last Modified 2024-06-15 1:50 PM EDT

"That Guy. Over There. It's His Fault."

Veronique de Rugy points out a recurring theme: Biden Points the Bill (and the Blame) Elsewhere.

Government overspending, an activity the Biden administration has taken to a new level, has sent the country into an inflationary spiral. Through trillions of dollars in COVID-19 relief programs, infrastructure spending, vote-buying student loan forgiveness programs and a political "Build Back Better Agenda," the White House has flooded the economy and decimated consumers' purchasing power. We're paying more and getting less for everything from energy to food.

According to the House Budget Committee, the average family of four is paying around $1,143 more each month than it was in early 2021 for the same goods and services; this includes increased gasoline costs. Rather than reversing course, President Joe Biden is telling voters the private sector is to blame and that he has the answers. He's doubling down by proposing more stifling, job-killing regulations to "fix" the problem — regulations which will inevitably send inflation to new heights.

That's the way I'd bet too.

Also of note:

  • Wimps. Just last month, our local Hamas cheerleaders congratulated themselves in my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat, for getting arrested for trespassing after refusing to leave the office of their (and my) CongressCritter, Chris Pappas.

    At the time, they proudly trumpeted their "willingness to face the consequences of civil disobedience".

    But now‥ not so much: Five plead not guilty to trespassing as they press Rep. Pappas in Dover on war in Gaza.

    Five people arrested at U.S. Rep. Chris Pappas’ Dover office in May after a protest against the war in Gaza have pleaded not guilty to criminal trespass and are scheduled to head to trial in the fall.

    The trial is scheduled for October. So they might be willing to face the consequences, but not soon, and not without a fight.

  • Thank your local mogul. Michael R. Strain writes In Defense of Billionaires,

    Billionaires should not exist,” argues Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who has long described himself as a democratic socialist. Indeed, “every billionaire is a policy failure” is a relatively common slogan among American progressives.

    To demonstrate the horseshoe nature of the political spectrum, Strain points out another example…


    Billionaire innovators create enormous value for society. In a 2004 paper, the Nobel laureate economist William D. Nordhaus found “that only a minuscule fraction” – about 2.2% – “of the social returns from technological advances” accrued to innovators themselves. The rest of the benefits (which is to say, almost all of them) went to consumers.

    According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos is worth $170 billion. Extrapolating from Nordhaus’s findings, one could conclude that Bezos has created over $8 trillion – more than one-third of the United States’ annual GDP – in value for society. For example, Amazon has reduced the price of many consumer goods and freed up an enormous amount of time for millions of Americans by eliminating the need to visit brick-and-mortar retailers. Bezos, meanwhile, has received only a tiny slice of those social benefits.

    I understand why political types like Sanders and Bannon despise billionaires: because billionaires provide ordinary people, directly or indirectly, with goods and services that they actually want, as demonstrated by their willingness to open their wallets.

    Government, on the other hand, will only give you what it thinks you should have. And make you pay for it.

  • It helped that Hunter is a blithering idiot. Andrew C. McCarthy disdains The DOJ’s Undeserved Victory Lap over Hunter’s Convictions.

    In the wake of Hunter Biden’s conviction on three slam-dunk felony firearm charges, we’ve now had a victory-lap press conference by so-called special counsel David Weiss, and the predictable chest-beating by Biden apologists about how the president’s Justice Department courageously prosecuted the president’s son without fear or favor.

    Astonishing chutzpah, even from this crowd.

    The crimes found by the jury were committed on October 12, 2018, and were fully known to law enforcement within less than two weeks when the gun was recovered after the defendant’s then-girlfriend — the wife of his late brother, whom he’d also gotten hooked on crack — took the Colt Cobra .38, which he’d illegally purchased while lying on the required federal form, and recklessly discarded it in a trash bin near a school, out of fear that in his drug-addled state he’d hurt himself or others. If the defendant’s name had been Robert Hunter Smith, any normal federal prosecutor would have prosecuted him for these crimes by early 2019, if not sooner — and there’d have been no concerns about the Secret Service mysteriously intervening to make the damning evidence disappear.

    But the defendant was named Robert Hunter Biden and the federal prosecutor was the abnormally political David Weiss, so the prosecution took six years — and if Weiss and the Biden Justice Department had had their way, it wouldn’t have happened at all.

    Not a gifted link, sorry.

  • But I was assured… Speaking of long-delayed justice, Jazz Shaw relates: Connecticut Dems Arrested After Voter Fraud Debacle.

    The wheels of justice turn slowly, as the saying goes. That seems to be particularly true in Connecticut. As you may recall, the mayoral election in Bridgeport, Connecticut last year was so riddled with election fraud involving mass mail-in voting that a judge ordered both the primary and general elections to be rerun. That wasn't the city's first run-in with that sort of cheating. During the 2019 elections, other allegations of "mishandling" absentee ballots were raised, leading to a police investigation. But this week, long after the dust had allegedly settled, arrests were finally made in these cases. Bridgeport Democratic Town Committee Vice Chair Wanda Geter-Pataky and City Council Member Alfredo Castillo were charged with unlawful possession of absentee ballots and other election law violations. Two campaign workers - also Democrats - were also charged.

    It might have gone unnoticed, but the alleged perpetrators seem to have been extremely inept.

    The problem with "easy" voting is that it makes fraud easy too. It's claimed there's "no evidence" of widespread voter fraud, but that's because the system is designed to not detect fraud.

Caption This

"If we jump into that limo and floor it, we can be in Mexico by tomorrow morning!" "Wha?"

But let's be serious, by linking to a serious article by Jacob Sullum: Hunter Biden's Gun Conviction Does Not Resolve a Constitutional Dispute That Pits Him Against His Father.

A federal jury in Delaware today found Hunter Biden guilty of three felonies based on his purchase of a revolver from a Wilmington gun shop in October 2018. That outcome is not surprising, since Biden had publicly admitted that he was a regular crack cocaine user around the time of the transaction. But Biden can still challenge the verdict by arguing that his prosecution violated the Second Amendment—a claim that pits him against his own father.

I don't recall seeing this scenario played out on The West Wing. But that may be because I never watched The West Wing.

Ah, but wait a minute, how about 24? Ah, this is much closer.

During Day 1, a political scandal broke out surrounding Keith Palmer's alleged murder of Lyle Gibson. Keith's father, Senator David Palmer, was running for the Democratic Party nomination at the time this scandal broke out. A collective of businessmen responsible for much of the funding of the David Palmer presidential campaign—known as the Latham Group—feared this scandal would ruin Palmer's chances of becoming president. They went so far as to commit blackmail and murder in order to cover it up. Palmer, however, eventually came forward with the truth himself and exposed the conspirators.

Jack Bauer could have cleared things up by shooting a few people in the leg, but apparently that wasn't necessary.

Also of note:

  • Don't believe the some polls. Nate Silver provides his latest Pollster ratings. There's a large table, but I jumped down — way down — to find the Survey Center hosted by the University Near Here.

    Spoiler: the Survey Center is in 291st place, and was awarded a mediocre grade of C+. Interestingly, Nate calculates their "Mean-Reverted Bias" to be 1.9 percentage points toward the Ds.

  • But the Department of Justice isn't politicized. Emily Yoffe with a sign of the times: A Doctor Told the Truth. The Feds Showed Up at His Door.

    Eithan Haim, 34, is at the beginning of his career as a surgeon. He and his wife are expecting their first child in the fall. And now he is facing a four-count federal felony indictment for blowing the whistle on Texas Children’s Hospital, where he worked while a resident.

    At TCH, he discovered the hospital was secretly continuing gender transition treatments on minors—including hormonal intervention on patients as young as 11 years old—after publicly declaring, in March of 2022, it would no longer provide such services.

    The hospital unwillingly backed away from the treatments under pressure from the Texas governor and attorney general. But Haim found not only were the treatments continuing—the program appeared to be expanding. He recorded several online presentations by medical staff encouraging the transition of children—one social worker described how she deliberately did not make note of such treatment in the medical charts of patients to avoid leaving a paper trail. Haim told me, “They were talking publicly about how they were concealing what they were doing. You can’t take care of your patient without trust. For me as a doctor, to not do something about this was unconscionable.”

    HIPAA violations are alleged, but Haim claims to have redacted names and other identifying data from the documents he provided to Christopher Rufo, the reporter covering the story for the City Journal.

  • Also in the censorious eye. James Taranto notes a desperate attempt to make something out of nothing: Justice Alito Stands Falsely Accused of Candor.

    Justice Samuel Alito began the week facing an accusation of excessive candor. Although the charge was leveled by Rolling Stone magazine, it seemed plausible because he is unusually outspoken for a sitting jurist. But it’s a bum rap. In this instance, what Justice Alito had to say was about as interesting as a seminar on real-estate law.

    The magazine claims that Justice Alito “spoke candidly about the ideological battle between the left and the right—discussing the difficulty of living ‘peacefully’ with ideological opponents in the face of ‘fundamental’ differences that ‘can’t be compromised.’ ”

    The “interlocutor,” Lauren Windsor, turned out to be lying to Justice Alito. Rolling Stone describes her as “a liberal documentary filmmaker” who “asked questions of the justice as though she were a religious conservative.” She met him by joining the Supreme Court Historical Society and buying a ticket to its annual dinner last week (and also in 2023), where she surreptitiously recorded the conversations. She posted the audio recordings to Twitter.

    Free legal advice: Ms. Windsor would be in trouble if she tried that in New Hampshire.

Blunt But Accurate

Jeff Maurer takes down a progressive fantasy in exactly 25 words:

Fair play to him. (Sorry, I'm in the middle of reading Tana French's latest.)

Also of note:

  • Blame it on the Bossa Nova. Megan McArdle requests that we point our shaky fingers elsewhere: Don’t blame the Supreme Court for universities’ stunning reversal on DEI.

    After a decade of ever-escalating commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion, elite campuses are reversing course.

    Many Ivy League admissions offices reinstated SAT requirements, even though doing so will make it harder to evade stricter Supreme Court scrutiny of racial preferences. MIT rescinded its requirement that aspiring faculty provide DEI statements explaining how they would advance its principles. Harvard’s faculty of arts and sciences soon followed, and the rest of the Ivy League will likely come trailing behind. Harvard also announced it would no longer be taking positions on matters outside the core functions of the university, while Stanford’s faculty voted to reaffirm principles of academic freedom and exercise restraint on institutional pronouncements.

    It's amazing to watch such an abrupt volte-face. What’s even more amazing is how far things went beforehand and how long the correction took to arrive.

    Ms. McArdle oh-so-gently notes that DEI was built on well-meaning prevarication; but as time went on, the lies took on their usual sitcom course, snowballing until the whole rickety structure became unsupportable.

    Classical reference. Why don't they ever play that song in my supermarket? Probably because people would be dancing in the aisles.

  • Why make up conspiracy theories about the Deep State, when the simple truth is so outrageous? James Taranto writes at the WSJ on The Deep State vs. Taxpayers. Quoting a Washington Times story:

    The IRS is struggling to get its employees back to work in person at least 50% of the time, and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the agency’s labor union is the chief hurdle.

    In striking testimony to Congress, Ms. Yellen suggested that the department may have to renegotiate contracts to get those employees back to their desks more often.

    “Some of the employees are covered by collective bargaining agreements. They are members of a union, and to enforce those rules requires an agreement with the union,” she told the Senate Appropriations Committee last week.

    Apparently, Federal "workers" have been allowed to unionize since the Jimmy Carter administration. That, to put it mildly, was a mistake.

  • Really trying to win Michiganistan, I guess. John Podhoretz writes of four "clarifying moments" that occurred recently: Heroism and the Biden Brainless Trust.

    It was a clarifying weekend both in the Middle East and in Washington. Clarifying in the first place because Israel got some of its mojo back in the staggering rescue of the four hostages in broad daylight from separate buildings in the Nuseirat refugee camp—which is technically under UN control, let us not forget. And one of those buildings was an UN refugee school. In other words, the UN was being used as a hostage prison. So we had four Israelis being used as slaves and household workers in territory controlled by the the world’s “peacekeepers.”

    Those of us who have long advocated literally blowing up the UN buildings in Turtle Bay in Manhattan—one of the first covers of the long-defunct magazine Insight, which I edited beginning in 1985, depicted the UN tower being dismantled, so that’s how long ago this idea has been percolating—now have renewed reason to press our case. The UN pays no taxes. Tear it down and there’s a huge development site in the most desirable spot in the city that could return billions in lost revenue. Meanwhile, the UN could be relocated to someplace that could use its commerce and doesn’t mind how it sheds blood and treasure in the name of Israel-hatred, like Lagos or South Sudan, and where there are no boutiques for the wives of monstrous dictators to buy stuff marked up especially for them. Rid my city of this organization that employs out-and-out neo-Nazis like UN “special rapporteur” Francesca Albanese, a person (I hesitate even to call her a person) whose views on Israel might cause Josef Goebbels to say, “Well, now you go a little far.” Not to mention one of the world’s greatest villains at the moment, UN General Secretary Guterres, a man who demonstrates the way in which a lifelong commitment to socialism now practically requires all-but-open Jew-hatred to maintain its purity as an ideological calling.

    You'll have to click over for the other clarifying moments. JPod's on fire.

  • Confirmed. At Power Line, Steven Hayward notes Facebook Censoring Climate Dissent Again.

    We’ve often cited the work of Roger Pielke, Jr. of the University of Colorado, who science Substack, The Honest Broker, is essential reading. What you should know about Roger (whom I know quite well) is that he is a centrist-liberal Democrat, believes climate change is a genuine future risk, and supports a carbon tax and other measures to fight it. But he also calls bull—- on a lot of climate extremism and exaggeration. His work has been cited by the “official” “consensus” scientific reports of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and he even forced Al Gore to change some of the claims Gore used to make about thermageddon.

    Hayward requested readers to make a normal FB post pointing to Pielke's Substack article, Climate Science is About to Make a Huge Mistake. That "huge mistake"? Pushing "an outdated extreme emissions scenario called RCP8.5" as the proper one to guide international policy.

    Reader, there is nothing outrageous or dangerous in Pielke's article; check for yourself.

    But, yup, within a few seconds of my posting a link to the article, it got taken down. I have appealed.

Recently on the book blog:

Last Modified 2024-06-12 7:34 AM EDT

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

(paid link)

This is the penultimate book in my project to read (or have read) all the titles on the New York Times 2021 list of the best books of the past 125 years. Like many of the books there, I don't know if it would be on my list of best books, but I liked it OK. For some reason, I'd mentally pigeonholed it as a sentimental book for non-adults.

I am pretty sure the titular "tree" refers to the young heroine, Francie Nolan. (Although there are some literal trees mentioned too, if you're of that bent.) At the turn of the twentieth century, she's born into a relatively poor family living in Williamsburg, then a slum area of (yes) Brooklyn. We get to know her as she grows into young womanhood. And her extended family, who are lovingly and colorfully described.

Along the way, there's plenty of color, humor, tragedy, drama, heartbreak, love, death, betrayal, … and even a little gunplay. It's kind of a soap opera, to be honest. But I enjoyed it quite a bit. Francie's an incredibly likeable character, and she remains a believable one as the book follows her over the years.

The 1943 novel was a massive best-seller, and became a 1945 movie. I haven't seen it, but it would be interesting to see how they handled some of the more, um, adult themes.

The remaining book on the list is Ulysses by James Joyce. That is gonna be a project in itself, I think.


A Science of Life without Free Will

(paid link)

I'm a believer in free will. And (as I've said before) I use the term "believer" because (sigh) I don't have any solid knock-down evidence to throw up against the (so-called) "determinists". Like the author of this book, Robert M. Sapolsky.

Let me quote from page four; I've added some bolding, you'll see why:

As a central point of this book, [biological and environmental interactions] are all variables that you had little or no control over. You cannot decide all the sensory stimuli in your environment, your hormone levels this morning, whether something traumatic happened to you in the past, the socioeconomic status of your parents, your fetal environment, your genes, whether your ancestors were farmers or herders. Let me state this more broadly, probably at this point too broadly for most readers: we are nothing more or less that the cumulative biological and environmental luck, over which we had no control, that has brought us to any moment. You're going to be able to recite this sentence in your irritated sleep by the time we're done.

See the problem? Is it "little or no control" or "no control"? I'm pretty sure that free-willers don't deny the effect of hormones, genes, past history, etc. on our decisions. But they also argue that we have some control over our actions; if Sapolsky is admitting that we have "little" control, then fine, we're reduced to arguing about how much is "some" or "little", not the existence of free will itself.

To be fair, Sapolsky is pretty consistent elsewhere in the book in seeming to argue for "no control whatsoever". Which makes his page-four wording simply sloppy. But there's also a pronoun problem: when he asserts "you" (or "we") have no control, what is "you" referring to? I'd say "our conscious selves", but Sapolsky disposes of that notion in a couple pages. (Starting on page 31, where he says "I don't understand what consciousness is, can't define it.")

But anyway, whatever he's talking about when he says "you" have no control, "you" are most like a toy boat, tossed helplessly around on the vast ocean of your neurons, brain physiology, environment, and history.

For the record, I liked the informal definition of "free will" tentatively offered by Kevin J. Mitchell in his recent book Free Agents: "the capacity for conscious, rational, control of our actions".

Rationality, the accumulation and evaluation of evidence, learning, adjustment of beliefs, application of logic, … all those associated concepts are more or less ignored by Sapolsky. Instead, when he looks at "the science", it is invariably constrained to arbitrary button-pushing and unconscious/subconscious reactions to those "stimuli" he mentions. A typical example: Disgusting smells cause decreased liking of gay men.

Sapolsky is far from alone in concentrating on all the myriad ways our mental processes can fail, or be fooled. But (as he mentions at some point) the existence of optical illusions doesn't mean that you can never trust what you see. Unfortunately, this insight is underutilized.

Sapolsky rebuts various non-supernatural attempts to reconcile "free will" with science. He (correctly, I think) says you don't get free will from quantum indeterminacy or chaos theory. He agrees that this makes human behavior difficult, probably impossible, to predict. But unpredictability is not indeterminacy. He also considers the notion that free will is an "emergent property" of sufficiently complex brains and nervous systems. Much like "life" can emerge by fortuitous arrangements of molecules that area not themselves alive. I think his discussion here were perfunctory and dismissive.

I liked his answer to the challenge: if everything is determined, how does anything ever change? (Specifically, how is reading this book supposed to make me stop believing in free will?)

The answer is that we don't change our minds, Our minds, which are the end products of all the biological moments that came before are changed by circumstances around us.

High marks for this moment of clarity. Sapolsky didn't come to his free-will disbelief by his own rational decision based on evidence; it was caused by the circumstances he happened to encounter. He had no choice.

The latter part of the book is devoted to how this applies to criminal justice. It is strident, repetitive, and overlong. Sapolsky argues that criminals (including the ones committing the vilest acts) are products of the (previously mentioned) brain malfunctions, environment, history, etc.: all factors over which they had no control. It probably makes sense to "quarantine" the violent and dishonest for periods so they can't cause further damage, but the idea of retributive punishment is fundamentally flawed. Moral judgment is off the table, especially if it leads to the death penalty.

It is somewhat amusing to note that while Sapolsky exempts violent criminals from moral judgment, he's perfectly OK with judging other (less violent) folks. People used to have non-biological explanations for schizophrenia; Sapolsky calls those people "psychoanalytic scumbags" (page 329). Bruno Bettelheim was a "sick, sadistic fuck" (page 338 footnote). This is far more moralistic mudslinging than anything Sapolsky aims at Ted Bundy, Anders Breivik, or Timothy McVeigh.

Bottom line: if the anti-free-willers are correct, then there should be an argument out there that would jangle my neurons in precisely the right way to force my agreement; I would literally have no choice but to agree. But that argument is not provided here.

Last Modified 2024-07-03 12:32 PM EDT

Pun Salad Dietary Advice: Don't Eat Anything You Wouldn't Kill Yourself

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

There are some surprising answers to the question posed at Our World in Data by Hannah Ritchie: What are the trade-offs between animal welfare and the environmental impact of meat?. It's an article full of Fun Facts, and here are some of the Funnest (footnotes elided):

Swap a beef burger for a chicken one, and you’ll cut the carbon footprint of your dinner by around 80%. The problem, however, is that you’ll need to kill 200 times as many chickens as cows to get the same amount of meat. An average chicken might produce around 1.7 kilograms of meat, while a cow produces around 360 kilograms.

This is true for other types of livestock, too. In the chart below, I’ve shown each type of meat’s carbon footprint on the right and the number of animals killed to produce one tonne on the left. You can see the trade-off. Bigger animals — cows, pigs, and lambs — emit more greenhouse gases but produce much more meat per animal. Chicken and fish might have a low carbon footprint but are killed in much higher numbers.

The consequence is that many more smaller animals — chickens and fish — are slaughtered. As my colleague, Max Roser shows in another article, every day 200 million chickens and hundreds of millions of fish are killed, compared to several million pigs and sheep, and about 900,000 cows daily.

To give these figures some context, the average person in the European Union consumes around 80 kilograms of meat per year. If all of this came from chicken meat, about 40 chickens would have to be killed per person. From beef, it would be less than one-sixth of a cow. That’s one cow every 6 or 7 years.

But it’s not just the number of lives that matters. The life of an average chicken is likely much worse than a cow's. Nearly all of the world’s chickens are factory-farmed. I’ve written about the painful conditions that many chickens experience throughout their lives. While it is certainly the case that some cattle will also experience poor standards of care, they’re more likely, on average, to have higher levels of welfare.

It is difficult to navigate this tradeoff. Swapping beef for chicken and fish will reduce your environmental footprint but at the cost of more animals living more painful lives.

Hannah has gone vegan, an admirable choice. I've been evaluating my dietary options lately. This article didn't make things easier for me.

Also of note:

  • Irony alert. Exercise for the reader: construct the the Venn diagram showing the intersection of (a) people who shriek about "book bans" when parents gripe about school libraries with copies of Gender Queer; and (b) people who think this sort of thing is just great: The Olympics Create List Of Banned Words For Journalists Regarding "Trans" Athletes. Victory Girls Blog quotes the Daily Mail:

    In a new 33-page document, the International Olympic Committee warned the media against using terms such as ‘born male’, ‘born female’, ‘biologically male’ and ‘biologically female’, which they claim is ‘problematic language’.

    The IOC also urges the press to avoid ‘sex change’, ‘post-operative surgery’ and ‘transsexual’. They said these phrases ‘can be dehumanising and inaccurate’ when describing transgender sportspeople and athletes with sex variations.

    The IOC's document doesn't seem to use the word "ban". I'm not sure what they would do if some renegade journalist committed an act of honesty.

  • Well, that's good news. Andrew McCarthy says Steve Bannon’s Remand Is Consistent with the Law. Ah, but there's a catch.

    There is gnashing of teeth over the federal court order on Thursday that former Trump White House aide Steve Bannon surrender on July 1 to begin serving, finally, the four-month sentence imposed on him nearly two years ago by Judge Carl Nichols. Naturally, much of the caterwauling comes from Bannon himself, who, as our Zach Kessel reports, claimed that the ruling by Nichols — a Trump appointee — was “about shutting down the MAGA movement, shutting down grassroots conservatives, shutting down President Trump.”

    While I am chagrined to see Bannon confined, just as I was to see him prosecuted, there is nothing untoward about Judge Nichols’s directive.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think Bannon was guilty of obstructing Congress . . . just as I think Attorney General Eric Holder was guilty of obstructing Congress. The difference is that, in their Trump-deranged norm-breaking, the Democrat-controlled House January 6 Committee — which was rigged to exclude members tapped to serve on it by Republican leadership — referred Bannon to the Biden Justice Department, which dutifully prosecuted him; by contrast, the Obama Justice Department (shock, shock!) chose not to prosecute Holder, Obama’s attorney general, when he provided false information (in connection with the Fast and Furious fiasco) to the then-Republican-controlled House.

    That's a gifted link, so RTWT.

Wallace Stanley Sayre! Thou Shouldst Be Living at This Hour!

Because "Sayre's Law" has never been so relevant.

Sayre is credited with the quip: "Academic politics is the most vicious and bitter form of politics, because the stakes are so low." The Wikipedia entry generalizes: "In any dispute the intensity of feeling is inversely proportional to the value of the issues at stake."

That is what (sort of) came to mind while watching this Reason video from Zach Weissmueller:

Or you can read the transcript, if you prefer: A Power Struggle Consumes the Libertarian Party.

How did the Libertarian Party Convention become a campaign stop for candidates with wildly anti-libertarian views? This year's speakers included Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who once called for jailing so-called climate deniers, and former president Donald Trump, a rabid opponent of free trade who added $8 trillion to the U.S. debt.

It's part of a strategy to transform the Libertarian Party (L.P.) into a major force in American politics that's largely the brainchild of political strategist Michael Heise, who viewed the 2016 presidential candidacy of Gary Johnson and Bill Weld as a colossal failure.

"Gary Johnson, 4.3 million votes, highest vote total ever, no lasting movement, no return on investment on those votes," Heise told Reason in 2022 during the party's convention in Reno. "[Gary Johnson voters] didn't stay because they weren't what you might call 'true believers.' They didn't feel it in their bones. It didn't have that same animation to it [as did] the Ron Paul [movement]."

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)
I guess I'd point to Heise's invocation of "true believers" as a good thing as the actual problem here. It's as if he read Eric Hoffer's The True Believer and treated it as a how-to manual. (I finally got around to reading it myself last year. And you should too. Amazon link at your right.)

So, anyway, Sayre's Law definitely applies, as witness the bitter LP infighting. But a different saying would apply to Heise's efforts to turn the LP into a Hofferian "mass movement": actual libertarians, instinctively individualistic, flinch away from that sort of thing. A different, probably Marxist, saying applies: "I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member."

Our regular Sunday look at the betting odds unsurprisingly fails to include Chase Oliver, the LP presidential candidate:

Candidate EBO Win
Donald Trump 52.6% +1.8%
Joe Biden 37.8% -2.9%
Michelle Obama 3.6% +0.8%
Robert Kennedy Jr 2.0% -0.2%
Other 4.0% +0.5%

Observation: Trump leads Biden in the betting probability by 14.8 percentage points, which is bigger than his lead on the Sunday just before he got convicted of 34 felonies. Funny.

And Michelle continues to impress some of the punters, who, I assume, are actually wagering on an actuarial event.

Also of note:

  • Finally. I was long dismayed by the wild and wacky conspiracy theorizing about the 2020 election. (Example.) But Steven Calabresi has some valid criticism at the Volokh Conspiracy here (but also see here).

    Using the the Covid pandemic as an excuse, the Left in 2020 massively changed the way presidential elections are held in this country. Whereas previously the secret ballot and same day voting was the norm, and one needed an excuse to get an absentee ballot, suddenly the Left declared it was essential to switch to mail in voting, for any reason at all, over a period of many weeks.

    Swarms of Democratic vote canvassers knocked on the doors of thousands of people who had not yet voted "by mail" and offered to "help" them "make their vote count". Ballots were filled in by voters at home. possibly with canvassers or family members, "observing" how each person voted. Canvassers then "offered" to deliver the "harvested ballots" to "drop boxes" saving voters the trouble of turning them in themselves. The net result was that Donald Trump got more votes in Pennsylvania in 2020 than Barack Obama had in either 2008 or in 2012, but he still fell 80,555 votes short of Joe Biden because "mail-in" voting with no secret ballot and canvassers conveying your ballot for you to the polls or a drop box was such a hit.

    Absentee ballots are probably necessary for the bedridden and voters currently out of state. (In fact, I'd prefer, for example, that UNH students paying out-of-state tuition get absentee ballots from their own localities.) But Calabresi makes a compelling argument that routine mail-in voting opens up too much room for intimidation and fraud.

  • She likes the bad boys. Ann Althouse looks at a WaPo article about the GOP Veepstakes: "In recent weeks, Trump has repeatedly talked about Rubio, Vance and Burgum, according to people familiar with his remarks...."

    But, hey, what about Nikki? Ann quotes from the article:

    “She’s a very disloyal person,” Trump said, according to attendees [at a recent fundraiser]. He then complained that she backed Marco Rubio in 2016 even after he asked for her endorsement and that she had been disloyal repeatedly to him since. “You have to like the person you’re running with, and I don’t like her. I don’t like her.

    Trump said he was not worried about her voters leaving him, according to attendees. “All those people are going to come vote for us anyway. Who are they going to vote for? … I think if I picked Nikki Haley, it would look like such a weak decision.”

    The primary thing Trump cares about is "loyalty". To him. How deeply do they bend the knee, how much spittle do they leave behind when kissing the ring?

  • A bad day's when I lie in bed and think of things that might have been. Matthew Continetti thinks President Dotard is Slip Slidin’ Away.

    President Biden “shows signs of slipping,” the Wall Street Journal reported this week. Journalists Annie Linskey and Siobhan Hughes — no conservatives — spoke to 45 people who have met with the president and noticed his mental and physical decline. They recount, in detail, several meetings over the past year where Biden has been forgetful, confused, and out of it. The president, Linskey and Hughes report, “appears slower now, someone who has both good moments and bad ones.”

    No kidding.

    You don’t need the Journal to tell you that Biden is diminished. You need only to open your eyes. Go over special counsel Robert Hur’s report into Biden’s unauthorized removal of classified documents. Review Biden’s Oval Office meltdown after Hur released his findings. Watch Biden try to sit at a D-Day commemoration in France on Thursday.

    We're only about two and a half weeks away from the first scheduled Trump/Biden debate. A good evening to binge WKRP in Cincinnati episodes.

Recently on the book blog:
Recently on the movie blog:

The Capitalist Manifesto

Why the Global Free Market Will Save the World

(paid link)

I continue to keep the Interlibrary Loan staff at the University Near Here employed while other departments are ruthlessly cut. This book came up from UConn. The author, Johan Norberg, is Swedish. But he's affiliated with Cato, and his English is pretty good. This book is (more or less) a followup to his In Defense of Global Capitalism, which came out about 20 years previous.

Free-market capitalism can always use defenders, but I admit Norberg was pushing on an open door in my case. In each chapter, he takes on an anti-capitalist canard and rebuts it ably.

Has life under capitalism become "savage", as Naomi Klein claims? Is it only designed to help the "rich get richer"? No, in fact, it's been the gateway out of poverty for billions.

Well, does it (um) make rich countries like the US poorer, as politicians on all sides like to claim, and have done so for decades?

Begin aside.

And they invariably use a very tired phrase.

Ross Perot, 1992: "We've shipped millions of jobs overseas".

CongressCritters Sykes, Pascrell, and Deluzio, just last month: "For too long, American companies have shipped jobs overseas […]"

Republican Kari Lake, back in March: "When I’m in the Senate, There will be no more shipping American jobs overseas".

And if you'd like more examples, here are some I gathered in 2010, and here are some I gathered in 2012.

You'll notice that those American jobs are always "shipped" overseas. They never take planes.

End aside.

Ahem. Well, anyway, that's inaccurate as well.

Is income/wealth inequality a huge problem? No.

How about monopolies? Also not an issue.

But the wise hands of government are uniquely qualified to guide us to the future, via industrial policy, right? Nope; other than funding basic research, those hands should keep to themselves.

How about China? They're in the process of stumbling off their once promising path of free markets.

How about climate change? Don't we need government to put us on the path to net-zero carbon emissions via mandates, subsidies, etc.? Here I am a little more skeptical than Norberg about the crisis. But he firmly opposes the green de-growth advocates, who would condemn large swaths of the planet to miserable poverty, forever. Instead he favors a simple, revenue-neutral carbon tax. Arguable!

So there's nothing really surprising or new here, but there's a lot to like. Norberg digs out this bit from Aristophanes' Ecclesiazusae from 391 BC, where an early progressive says the quiet part out loud:

Proxagoras: I shall begin by making land, money, everything that is private property, common to all. Then we shall live on this common wealth.

Blepyrus: But who will till the soil?

Proxagoras: The slaves.

(I think Norberg's excerpt differs slightly from other translations)

Godzilla Minus One

[2 stars] [IMDB Link]

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

I really wanted to like this movie. It got couple thumbs up from Reason stalwarts Peter Suderman and Eric Boehm. They (understandably) were attracted to the movie's libertarian subtext. On the other hand, I found it to be a literal snoozefest; I kept falling asleep and missing long swaths of the narrative.

The Zilla-effects are impressive (also Oscar-winning) and they are kept at a below-overkill level. When the beast throws around naval warships and commuter trains, my inner 13-year-old couldn't help but go "Whoa!". The carnage is spectacular; when a post-attack news report puts the casualties in a small city at 30,000, I said "That few?"

But the plot: things kick off when Shikishima, our hero, a kamikaze pilot at the end of WW2, flies to the small island of Odo, complaining to the support crew there of his plane's mechanical failure. This fools nobody; Shikishima has made the sensible, but dishonorable, choice to not sacrifice his life in a futile gesture of loyalty to Japan.

Unfortunately, Odo is also the home to that big titular lizard; he's a youngster, but still very destructive. During the fight, Shikishima is ordered to get into his plane and fire its guns at the beast. Similarly to the kamikaze mission, he realizes this would be (a) futile and (b) suicidal, so he bails. And is one of the only survivors.

A guilt-filled, disgraced Shikishima returns to a postwar Japan in ruins. He acquires a makeshift family of sorts, and ekes out a living clearing mines from the waters around Honshu. But (apparently) A-bomb tests have put Mr. G. Z. on a growth spurt, and made him even more homicidal. So their paths are destined to cross again. Will Shikishima redeem himself? Not without a lot of overacting, unfortunately.

Libertarians like that the final battle is carried out by a semi-private force of volunteers. I was somewhat surprised at how cynical the movie was toward the Japanese government. (For example, a character observes "Come to think of it this country has treated life far too cheaply.") The US bombed the country into rubble, some of it radioactive, but … fine.

Netflix has the option to either watch with original Japanese or dubbed English dialog. I recommend the former; some of the dialog is pretty stupid and overwrought, and you only have to read it, not listen to it too.

Last Modified 2024-06-09 4:27 AM EDT

Why, Sometimes I've Believed As Many As Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)

Jacob Sullum notes possible evidence for presidential time travel: Laurence Tribe Bizarrely Claims Trump Won in 2016 by Falsifying Records in 2017.

"In 2016," Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe writes, "Donald Trump seemed to pull an inside straight by narrowly winning" Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin "while losing the popular vote by 3 million. We now know Trump committed 34 felonies to win that election. Without these crimes, he seems almost certain to have lost to Hillary Clinton. She would have been sworn in on Jan. 20, 2017. She would have filled two Supreme Court vacancies and enacted her legislative agenda."

Since those 34 felonies involved falsified business records that were produced in 2017, Tribe's claim is logically impossible. Yet his gloss on the former president's New York conviction echoes similarly puzzling claims by many smart and ostensibly well-informed observers. In their eagerness to embrace the prosecution's dubious "election fraud" narrative, they nonsensically assert that Trump retroactively ensured his 2016 victory by disguising a 2017 hush-money reimbursement as payment for legal services.

Sullum provides other examples of this temporal paradox promoted by historian Douglas Brinkley, the WaPo, the NYT, Al Jazeera, NPR, and (of course) the prosecution. And expresses surprise "that so many people who should know better have described the verdict in a way that could not possibly be true."

Which inspired today's headline, brought to you courtesy of Lewis Carroll. Some people have gone Through the Looking Glass, and live there now.

Also of note:

  • Among the many things Biden's forgotten… Nikki Haley takes to the NYPost to point out an important one Joe Biden has forgotten what happened on Oct. 7 — but Israelis can’t.

    It’s crucial that Israel finish the job in Gaza, defeat Hamas and return every hostage back home to their families.

    That includes the eight Americans who are still hostages in Gaza, five of whom are known to be alive.

    Yet instead of supporting Israel against the terrorists who pledge Death to Israel and Death to America, President Biden and some members of Congress are withholding weapons, punishing Israel diplomatically and economically and dictating what they want politically instead of what Israel needs for security.

    Worst of all, they’re demanding a cease-fire.

    A cease-fire is the same as defeat.

    It would give the terrorists time and resources to complete their mission, which is the total destruction of Israel.

    True dat. Which caused me to check out the latest newsletter from our local Hamas cheerleaders, the Community Church of Durham. And … yup:

    Any parishoners who have not quit the church in disgust are encouraged to "Join Our Vigil for a Permanent Ceasefire"

    Join us in Dover, outside the office of Senator Jeanne Shaheen in Henry Law Park. Join us for a silent vigil for all who are suffering violence, displacement, terror, and grief in Palestine and Israel. We will implore Sen. Shaheen to join the call for a permanent ceasefire, an end to the Israeli bombardment and blockade of Gaza, and an end to US military aid to Israel.

    The "permanent" bit is certainly irritating, but it (of course) mirrors current Hamas demands.

    And, unless you're a fool, the Hamas definition of "permanent ceasefire" simply means "until we gear up for more atrocities."

  • And going bust. Steven Greenhut notes the recent folly: California Is Doubling Down on Banning Plastic Bags.

    You know those scenes from old Western movies (or Bugs Bunny) where an outlaw fires his gun near someone's feet. The goal isn't to harm the target, but to make him dance to miss the bullets in an effort to frighten, humiliate or exert dominance. Think about those scenes as you consider a set of new pointless plastic-bag-related laws that seem destined just to make Californians "dance."

    Remember all the hoopla in 2014 when Gov. Jerry Brown signed a "groundbreaking" law that would dramatically reduce solid waste by forbidding grocery stores from providing "single-use" plastic bags? It's been a decade since that law turned the grocery-checkout process into a grinding routine as clerks ask consumers how many bags they want to buy and cheapskate shoppers drag out bacteria-laden reusable cotton ones.

    That law's backroom negotiations offer hilarious lessons in legislative sausage-making, as unions, stores, and environmentalists jockeyed for special privileges. A key compromise allowed stores to sell thicker "reusable" plastic bags, which seemed bizarre to me. The "single-use" bags actually had multiple uses. They were so thin I'd keep them to pick up dog poo and line bathroom trash cans.

    Greenhut goes on to note that the state is on trajectory to make things worse.

    Pun Salad has been a plastic bag cheerleader for years: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

  • Professor Pinker provides a free speech tutorial. In an interview with the Harvard Political Review on Time, Place, and Manner. He hits this softball question out of the park:

    HPR: ​In the past, you have criticized Harvard for not doing more to uphold the First Amendment, and you have argued against criminalizing “deplorable speech” such as hate speech. However, you have also written that Harvard should have shut down the pro-Palestinian encampment, which encampment organizers defended as a peaceful exercise of free speech. How do you reconcile those two viewpoints?

    SP: Oh, because free speech doesn’t mean that I get to break into your apartment and spray graffiti on your walls, or to stand outside your apartment with a sound truck blaring propaganda at 3 a.m. First Amendment jurisprudence has long recognized that free speech is not a license to use force to break the law nor to infringe on other people’s rights. And so restrictions on time, place, and manner have always been tightly interwoven into defenses of free speech, otherwise they could collapse in absurdity. For example, if a professor offered to trade grades for sex to a student, he would not be able to defend himself on the grounds of free speech. Or if someone threatens to kill someone, that too would not be protected under the First Amendment or any reasonable definition of free speech. So both crimes are inherently committed through speech, like extortion and harassment.

    Reasonable restrictions on time, place, and manner, have always been a part of defenses of free speech. Now, restrictions on time, place, and manner themselves have to be carefully delineated and defended; otherwise, they could be a pretext for suppressing speech. And the usual threefold test is: Are they content-neutral? That is, do they apply regardless of what the protesters are actually saying? Are there alternative means by which those opinions can be expressed? And is there a rationale for the restrictions? That is, do the restrictions serve some legitimate institutional purpose? In the case of the encampment, the argument for shutting it down passes all three time, place, and manner restrictions. Namely, it has nothing to do with the content of what the protesters are saying, although I think the content is deplorable, but that’s not by itself a reason to shut it down.

    … and there's more at the link.

Snarky-Tweets-Я-Us III

I try to hit my state's senior senator with a clue bat:

I see many other replies to her in the same vein, which is encouraging. Not that she pays the slightest bit of attention.

Also of note:

  • Probably already marked off on your impeachment bingo card. George Will points out: On immigration, the too-little-too-late president strikes again.

    Polls have concentrated Biden’s mind. On Tuesday, he announced that he will faithfully execute his executive order intended to contain the wreckage wrought by his refusal to perform his core constitutional duty to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” New restrictions will take effect when illegal crossings exceed 2,500 a day. The arithmetic is: 912,500 (approximately the population of Biden’s Delaware) in a year could melt into the nation, as under today’s system. Regarding border security, as when combating inflation or aiding Ukraine, Biden is a too-little-too-late president.

    Presidents from both parties have become geysers of executive orders, imposing tariffs, essentially banning internal combustion vehicles, forgiving student debts, altering the legal status of millions of immigrants, etc. What fun.

    Until it isn’t. Until the public, taught by presidential highhandedness that presidents can do whatever they please, blames them for whatever problems persist. This is both unfair and richly deserved. Today’s Congress, which has been well-described as cable television’s largest green room, escapes blame for the immigration disaster because the public, fixated on the presidency, knows that, for Congress, governance is a spectator sport.

    Biden must have zoned out during that "laws be faithfully executed" part of his oath.

  • I'm not sure they even pay lip service to "fiscal responsibility" any more. But nevertheless, Veronique de Rugy is old enough to remember: The GOP Once Claimed To Be the Party of 'Fiscal Responsibility.' So Why Not Reform Social Security?

    She notes that Democrats would dearly love to delay until the "Trust Fund" almost goes bust, automatic benefit cuts are just around the corner, and force the "reform" they prefer in an atmosphere of panic and demagoguery.

    If Republicans, for much of their history the self-styled party of fiscal responsibility, fail to advocate for and implement meaningful reform before the Trust Fund dries out—or even if they wait until the last minute—they leave the door wide open for Democrats to address the problem in their preferred manner. Historically, Democrats have favored maintaining or even expanding Social Security. Their solution will likely involve raising taxes and increasing government debt.

    Higher taxes could come in various forms, such as increased payroll taxes, higher income taxes, or new taxes targeting wealthier individuals. While this approach might sustain benefits in the short term, it will also very likely slow economic growth by reducing incentives for work, entrepreneurship, and investment.

    Another possible scenario is covering Social Security's shortfalls with yet more government debt. This would mean issuing more government bonds, which the government would eventually need to pay back with interest. Higher national debt levels can lead to higher interest rates, crowding out private investment and potentially fueling inflation. Moreover, the burden of this debt would fall on future taxpayers, exacerbating intergenerational inequity.

    Donald Trump, by echoing Biden's position on Social Security, certainly ain't helping.

  • On the LFOD watch. New Hampshire Bulletin notes some legislation you might have missed, concerning Kangaroo ownership, rodent traps, brass knuckles.

    You can continue pronouncing Concord however you like and use adhesive rodent traps, but brass knuckles remain illegal and you’ll still need a permit to adopt a kangaroo.

    We will soon have to change our state's motto to "You can have my brass knuckles when you remove them from my cold, dead, actual knuckles."

    But (for your own reference), that pronunciation bill would have legislated "New Hampshire" be pronounced ("in accordance with the International Phonetic Alphabet") /nu:'hæmpʃər/ and "Concord" as /'kɒŋkərd/.

    The proposal didn't mention the fun ones: Berlin, Chocorua, Contoocook, Coos, Haverhill, Milan, Piscataqua, Plaistow, Sanbornton, … Some you have to drive to, and ask some old codger "Where am I?"

Talking About Two Different Generations

Recycling Mr. Ramirez's art from five years ago:

Generation Gap

As I said five years ago: "Sorry if that stings a little, kids."

Today, I'd add: "Kids, it's not your fault, and on balance a good thing, that we don't live in times that demand you go off to distant lands and have people try to kill you, while you are trying to kill them."

Still, there may be downsides. Michael Munger points out one of them at AIER: Our Kids Have No Economic Immune Systems. He discusses the "hygiene hypothesis", which contends "humans need environmental adversity for our immune systems to mature and function normally." Could that apply to…

There is some evidence that this “hygiene hypothesis” explains much of the dissatisfaction many young people have with capitalism.  While it’s true that America’s education establishment has been taken over by economically illiterate ideologues, something in the mindset of young people of the past two generations has made them think that capitalism is not (just) immoral, but terrifyingly dangerous.

The odd thing is that our children are the among the richest people who have ever turned 5 years old. Since the mid-1990s, with a stumble in 2007-2012 for the “Great Recession,” median family income rose steadily until the government-mandated shutdown of the economy in March 2020. In fact, so-called Millennials stand to become by far “the richest generation” ever.  Millennials and Gen Z have never known anything except prosperity, in terms of the level of their income, and their access to things — cell phones, the internet, streaming music and movies on demand, improvements in auto safety — that as recently as 1990 could not be had at any price.

This seems paradoxical. The commercial system has delivered, consistently and broadly shared across the population. Yet having to participate in a system where one plans, saves, invests, and designs an individual “pursuit of happiness” is overwhelming the very people who should be grabbing all the new opportunities that the system has revealed to them.

I'm not sure I completely buy Munger's thesis, but it's worth thinking about.

Also of note:

  • Once you've watched The Manchurian Candidate, it's hard to resist deploying this quote. (I should know, I did it myself back in April.)

    We would also have accepted: "Who ya gonna believe, me or your own eyes?"

    But if you'd like your criticism in slightly less snarky form, Charles C. W. Cooke has you covered, while casting a plague upon sycophants on the Other Side: Nobody Believes That.

    Lest anyone think I’m picking on Biden — or Scarborough — I should note that there is a perfect equivalent of this on the right, in which acolytes of Donald Trump insist that the man is a moral paragon; a devout Christian; a faithful husband; an example to our nation and its children; a constitutional stickler; a man without sin who, like Jesus, has been persecuted for his divinity. I don’t hear this every time Trump’s character is raised — some of Trump’s fans have the good sense to say, “he’s a disaster, but he’s preferable” — but I do hear it more often than I’d expect. And every time I do, I look around for the hidden camera. Surely, it’s a bit? Surely, nobody actually thinks that, right? And, more important, surely nobody expects me to go along with it? When its performative — or defensive — I can grasp its purpose. When it’s sincere, I am utterly baffled. Donald Trump is one of the worst people in America. I can comprehend the argument for voting him nevertheless; I cannot comprehend pretending that he is a good person while doing so.

    And Biden? Biden is senile. Forget “behind closed doors.” Forget “slipping.” The guy is manifestly too old to be president. He slurs. He rambles. He becomes confused about where he is or what he’s doing. He mixes up key details. He makes up stories, and, having done so, he then forgets which lies he’s told before. I can see this. You can see this. The American public can see this, which is why more of them believe that Joe Biden is too old to be president than support Social Security. Robert Hur could see it, too, which is why he concluded that Biden was too old and forgetful to be prosecuted. It stands to reason that, far from being magically improved, Joe Biden is far, far, far worse when he is out of the public eye than he is within it. But even if he’s precisely the same, he is still unfit. When Joe Scarborough insists otherwise — as he does semi-regularly — he is making a fool of himself in exactly the same way as the Trumpies do when they pretend that the only problem with Trump’s conduct in office was that he sent “mean tweets.” Who believes this garbage? Honestly.

    The funny part (for sufficiently small values of "funny") is how we wound up with these guys as the putative major-party nominees for the highest office in the land.

  • As the Firesign Theater foretold: "Everything You Know Is Wrong". Noah Smith wonders: How many of our "facts" about society, health, and the economy are fake?

    Remember the maternal mortality crisis? In 2022 and 2023, a lot of people were wringing their hands about how American mothers were dying at skyrocketing rates. Here’s what the Commonwealth Fund, a health-care-focused think tank that’s generally regarded as one of the top sources of public information on the U.S. health system, told us in 2022:

    The maternal mortality rate in the United States has for many years exceeded that of other high-income countries…The U.S. maternal mortality rate has been on the rise since 2000 and has spiked in recent years.

    And in 2023, the Wall Street Journal declared that U.S. maternal mortality was the highest it had been since 1965. These were only two of many outlets that reported on the trend. Politicians took note. Social media shouters declared one more piece of evidence of America’s rapid decline as a nation.

    There’s just one problem: The U.S. maternal mortality increase was fake. It was a thing that never happened.

    Click over for the depressing details. Including Smith's observation of a more general problem: "[E]xperts will sometimes lie to the public in order to further what they see as the greater good." His further examples, about "falling geographic mobility" and "the teen mental health crisis" are, unfortunately, for paid subscribers only.

  • This may explain why people are shying away from the DEI acronym. Yesterday, I mentioned a couple universities that used non-standard acronyms to tout their wokeness. Could be that "DEI" is (as John Tierney says) too easily thought to stand for "Didn’t Earn It."

    George Orwell despaired at the linguistic atrocities of propagandists, but he did offer one bit of hope in his famous essay, “Politics and the English Language.” While lamenting that “political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible,” he noted that some abuses of the language were vulnerable to “jeers” from a few critics. “Silly words and expressions have often disappeared,” he wrote, “not through any evolutionary process but owing to the conscious action of a minority.”

    So perhaps a jeering minority will rid us of today’s most egregiously indefensible phrase: “Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.” It’s a textbook example of doublespeak, the term inspired by Orwell’s 1984 dystopia in which the Newspeak language enables citizens to engage in “doublethink”—simultaneously holding two contradictory beliefs. The words in DEI sound like admirable goals, but the officials mouthing them are working to do just the opposite, as Florida governor Ron DeSantis observed when he banned DEI initiatives at public universities. What DEI really stands for, DeSantis said, is “Discrimination, Exclusion and Indoctrination.”

    That formulation hasn’t caught on, but another one has: “Didn’t Earn It.” It went viral this spring after Ian Miles Cheong, a conservative journalist, and Scott Adams, the Dilbert cartoonist, tweeted it to their 2 million followers on X. Adams, who had fearlessly predicted in 2015—six months before the first Republican primary—that Donald Trump would be elected president because of his skill as a “master persuader,” tweeted another forecast: “Whoever came up with ‘Didn’t Earn It’ as the description of DEI might have saved the world. Normally, the clever alternative names people use to mock the other side’s policy are nothing but grin-worthy. This one could collapse the whole racist system. It’s that strong.”

    Tierney points to one indicator of "Didn't Earn It"'s success: Media Matters has issued a research/study purporting to show it's racist.

I Hear They Have Some Smart People There

no political litmus tests

We can only hope that this is a sign of things to come, as reported by John Sailer at the Free Press: Harvard Rolls Back DEI.

Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS)—the largest school within the university, comprising half of all Harvard students—will no longer require “diversity, inclusion, and belonging” statements for faculty hiring. The news, first reported by The Boston Globe, is the latest indicator that elite universities are moving away from the ideological litmus tests that have come to dominate campus.

This follows the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s decision to end the controversial policy entirely, which I first reported on last month. It also comes after Harvard reinstated standardized testing in admissions in April.

A bit of acronymic trivia: although the FP's headline refers to "DEI", Harvard prefers "DIB" for its TLA, "Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging". Aw, belonging! Sounds a little Hallmark-cardish, doesn't it?

In the meantime, the University Near Here sometimes, inconsistently, sticks an extra A into the basic acronym: DEAI, for "Diversity, Equity, Access & Inclusion". And their web page pictures three students, one in a wheelchair, so there.

But never mind that digression. Greg Lukianoff and Angel Eduardo are adopting a "fine, but…" attitude: Dropping DEI statements is a great start, but ideological litmus tests are the real issue. (And I've swiped their image for the Eye Candy du Jour above.)

However, we want to be very clear that although DEI statements (and the larger DEI bureaucracy on campus) are absolutely threats to free speech, our primary objection is to the larger issue of political litmus tests — and those can come in a variety of flavors and forms. Florida’s “Stop WOKE Act,” for example, was anti-DEI but still a plainly ideological attempt to restrict what students or faculty can say, which is why we sued (and won).

What we need are policies that go after the root of the problem: ideological conformity and pressure that threatens free speech and academic freedom on campus. FIRE drafted model legislation called the Intellectual Freedom Protection Act, which the state of Kansas has already adopted, that singles out political or ideological litmus tests regardless of whether they’re from the right or the left. We’re hopeful that more and more states will come to adopt it, as universities continue to recognize how hamstrung the existing policies have made them in pursuit of their primary mission: fostering an environment where ideas can be voiced, explored, and challenged in search of truth.

And speaking of that, there’s a lot more universities can do to ensure colleges stay on mission — beginning with students.

DEI statements haven’t just been a tool for faculty hiring in recent years. They also play a large role in student admissions for universities. If these schools want to get serious about being oases of free thought, they will have to make some changes to the way they cultivate their student bodies.

The University Near Here uses the Common App for incoming student applications. According to this site ("Writing the Diversity Essay"), its request is pretty anodyne:

Some students have a background, identity, interest, or talent that is so meaningful they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.

I can only recommend cribbing Navin Johnson's opening soliloquy from The Jerk:

My story? Okay. It was never easy for me. I was born a poor black child. I remember the days, sittin' on the porch with my family, singin' and dancin' down in Mississippi...

Also of note:

  • What's a small-l libertarian to do? Specifically, in the voting booth come November. We commented on Walter Block's WSJ op-ed last week; now comes Pierre Lemieux, writing at EconLib on Walter Block's “Distance” Recommendation. Block advocated that "swing state" libertarian voters go for Trump. But:

    […] we must not lose sight of a simple but often ignored reality: the tiny probability that an individual vote will be decisive, that it will “swing” anything. It never happened in a presidential election and is unlikely to ever happen. A rational individual will not vote with the intention to change the election’s result. Even if Block’s WSJ piece persuaded 1,000 “swing” libertarians to vote for Trump, any one of them will know that his vote only reduces the hypothesized 1,000-member decisive group to 999. He may prefer to spend his time milking the cows or watching the New York skyline.

    The best a rational voter can do is to vote (or not vote or spoil his ballot) in order to express a moral opinion in favor of the candidate, if there is one, with whom he shares important moral values. (See Geoffrey Brennan and Loren Lomasky, Democracy and Decision [Cambridge University Press, 1993].) For a libertarian, these values will be those conducive to the maintenance of a free society. Moral congruence may not look easier to evaluate than issue distance, but at least it chases a real rabbit. This suggests that the best a libertarian voter can do is to vote for the candidate, if there is one, who shows the moral character most representative of what a politician in a truly free society would be (while of course remaining a generally self-interested human being). We should leave some room for reasonable compromise but, at the limit, we may think of the required moral character for a royal president as modeled on the ideal of the head of state in Anthony de Jasay’s “capitalist state.” The less radical might look at the ethics defended by James Buchanan in Why I, Too, Am Not a Conservative.

    In this perspective, whoever is a candidate with an acceptable libertarian moral character, if there is one, it is not Donald Trump.

    Succinctly: you may live in a swing state, but you ain't a swing voter.

  • Punish the monkey and let the organ grinder go. David Harsanyi recommends a course of action: Merrick Garland Shouldn't Be Praised. He Should Be Impeached.

    It’s no accident that The Wall Street Journal ran an “exclusive” hagiographic piece on Merrick Garland’s “by-the-book, play-no-favorites approach” the day the attorney general is set to be grilled by Congress. The administration wants to paint the AG as a fair-minded dispenser of justice.

    In truth, while Garland might occasionally — only when faced with no real options — put the Biden administration in an uncomfortable political position, he has regularly weaponized the agency to target the president’s political enemies, from pro-life protesters to concerned parents to presidential candidates.

    Even as I write this, Garland is refusing to hand over audio recordings of Joe Biden’s interviews with former Special Counsel Robert Hur, despite a congressional subpoena. Even as the DOJ stonewalls Congress, it is prosecuting the Republican Party’s presidential candidate for crimes for which the Hur tape supposedly “exonerates” Biden.

    Garland’s claims of executive privilege are risible. If Biden’s audio can be withheld from the public simply because someone somewhere might manipulate the tape using AI, then any audio of any president can be denied the public.

    Harsanyi provides a long list of Garland's other offenses.

    And, in case you're not a Knopfler fan: Headline reference.

  • Ya think? While we're going after misbehaving government employees, Christian Britschgi has one in his sights: Anthony Fauci Gives Misleading, Evasive Answers About NIH-Funded Research at Wuhan Lab.

    In a now-infamous 2021 exchange with Sen. Rand Paul (R–Ky.), Anthony Fauci—the former longtime head of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and former chief medical advisor to the president—said that the National Institutes of Health (which oversees NIAID) "has not ever and does not now fund gain-of-function research in the Wuhan Institute of Virology."

    We now know this is not true.

    A treasure trove of documents uncovered by congressional investigators and dogged investigative journalists has established that the NIAID was funding gain-of-function research on bat coronaviruses at the Wuhan Lab via a grant to the scandal-plagued nonprofit EcoHealth Alliance (which the Biden administration just debarred from receiving federal funding).

    These revelations lead to the inescapable conclusion that Fauci was being misleading at best (and dishonest at worst) about the NIH-funded research at Wuhan. It also has fueled eminently reasonable speculation that that research precipitated a lab leak at Wuhan which caused the COVID-19 pandemic.

    To quote Hawaii CongressCritter Jill Tokuda: "Thank you for your science."

    She apparently did not add: "Can you science me harder?"

  • Counterpoint alert! Speaking of Covid stuff, yesterday we commented favorably on Alina Chan's NYT article Why the Pandemic Probably Started in a Lab, in 5 Key Points. So I should probably give equal time to Scott Sumner, who accuses Chan of Bad reasoning.

    A recent NYT article provides an almost textbook example of how bad reasoning can fuel conspiracy theories. The author claims to provide five pieces of evidence suggesting that Covid escaped from a lab in Wuhan, China. In fact, none of the pieces of evidence are at all persuasive, and some are factually inaccurate. Here I’ll focus on the first piece of evidence cited, the inferences that we should draw from the fact that Covid happened in Wuhan.

    The article shows a graph of the “hundreds of large cities” within about 1500 miles of the bat caves where Covid is thought to have originated […]

    Then we are led to believe that it would be an amazing coincidence if Covid were to naturally emerge in the one city in this region that just happened to have a major virology lab.  But is this claim true?

    Sumner goes on to point out that Wuhan is not just a "large city"; it's a megacity. There are far fewer of those.

    Anyway, see what you think.

Mister, We Could Use a Scientist Like Trofim Lysenko Again

From the relevant Wikipedia article:

In 1940, Lysenko became director of the Institute of Genetics of the Soviet Academy of Sciences, and he used his political influence and power to suppress dissenting opinions and discredit, marginalize, and imprison his critics, elevating his anti-Mendelian theories to state-sanctioned doctrine

And, the article goes on to note, "Lysenko's ideas and practices contributed to the famines that killed millions of Soviet people", not to mention tens of millions Chinese people.

So, gee, maybe it wouldn't be good to have a scientist like Trofim Lysenko. Sorry about the headline.

Oh, wait. We have a scientist like Trofim Lysenko. And, as reported by Joe Nocera at the Free Press, he still has his defenders in positions of power: “Thank You For Your Science:” Democrats Fail to Challenge Tony Fauci.

But Trofim's Tony's detractors were on hand as well, with their "obsession":

As for the Republicans, they have had one obsession for years: to show that Covid-19 was the result of a lab leak. Republicans have long accused Fauci of using government funds to help pay for research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology that could have led to the creation of the virus. And he has long denied it, including at yesterday’s hearing.

Remarkably, though, Fauci maintained that he had always kept an “open mind” about the origins of the virus causing Covid-19 and that he never attempted to censor or discredit opposing voices on the policies he spearheaded during the pandemic. This is laughable. Until the hearing, Fauci had consistently dismissed the lab leak hypothesis. And as for those opposing voices, after three dissident scientists published the Great Barrington Declaration, calling for a strategy of protecting the vulnerable and letting life resume otherwise, Fauci compared them to the doctors in the 1980s who claimed HIV didn’t cause AIDS.

One of those three dissident scientists, Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, an epidemiologist and professor of health policy at Stanford University, told The Free Press that Fauci is “incapable of intellectual honesty” and of “honest engagement with his critics.”

Among those in thrall to the "obsession": the New York Times, which published yesterday an explanation of Why the Pandemic Probably Started in a Lab, in 5 Key Points. The online version is fancy, interactive, JavaScript-intense, and "updated to reflect news developments."

On Monday, Dr. Anthony Fauci returned to the halls of Congress and testified before the House subcommittee investigating the Covid-19 pandemic. He was questioned about several topics related to the government’s handling of Covid-19, including how the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which he directed until retiring in 2022, supported risky virus work at a Chinese institute whose research may have caused the pandemic.

For more than four years, reflexive partisan politics have derailed the search for the truth about a catastrophe that has touched us all. It has been estimated that at least 25 million people around the world have died because of Covid-19, with over a million of those deaths in the United States.

Although how the pandemic started has been hotly debated, a growing volume of evidence — gleaned from public records released under the Freedom of Information Act, digital sleuthing through online databases, scientific papers analyzing the virus and its spread, and leaks from within the U.S. government — suggests that the pandemic most likely occurred because a virus escaped from a research lab in Wuhan, China. If so, it would be the most costly accident in the history of science.

The article is by Alina Chan, not a tinfoil-hatted conspiracy theorist, but "a molecular biologist at the Broad Institute of M.I.T. and Harvard."

Let's give a shout out to Jim Geraghty, who first pointed out the odd coincidence of the initial outbreak occurring in the hometown of the Wuhan Institute of Virology back in 2020, only a few months into the pandemic. He noted the Lab-Leak Hypothesis Goes Mainstream in January 2021.

And, years later, the NYT has leapt onto that wacky theory. "Welcome to the party, pal!"

We are left to wonder what the NYT will be getting around to noticing in 2028. How about: "Gee, that Trump prosecution was a really dangerous case of politicized justice."

Also of note:

  • Why didn't Nixon Biden just order the tapes to be erased? OK, I have to admit the source is iffy, but:

    Burning question: in these days of modern times, they still use audio tapes?

    But never mind the media format. Pravda Associated Press reports, with a straight face, the official DOJ rationale for the coverup claim of executive privilege: Justice Department’s ‘deepfake’ concerns over Biden interview audio highlights AI misuse worries.

    Releasing an audio recording of a special counsel’s interview with President Joe Biden could spur deepfakes and disinformation that trick Americans, the Justice Department said, conceding the U.S. government could not stop the misuse of artificial intelligence ahead of this year’s election.

    A senior Justice Department official raised the concerns in a court filing on Friday that sought to justify keeping the recording under wraps. The Biden administration is seeking to convince a judge to prevent the release of the recording of the president’s interview, which focused on his handling of classified documents.

    Of course, if some AI wiz wanted to generate a deepfake of President Dotard, there are probably petabytes of easily available video and audio data he could use for sources. I assume they were serving red herring in the DOJ cafeteria yesterday.

  • And what kind of fool am I? Kevin D. Williamson wonders: What Sort of Man Is Donald Trump? Excerpt:

    About the underlying facts of Alvin Bragg’s case, there was never any serious question. Trump conducted a sexual liaison with the woman known professionally as Stormy Daniels—at the time a pornographic performer looking to move beyond sex videos into another kind of entertainment career—while his wife Melania, the future third lady, was at home tending to their newborn son, Barron, who is named after the imaginary friend Trump invented to lie to the New York Post about his sex life. (This is something totally normal and mentally well-adjusted people do all the time: invent imaginary friends to falsely inform the tabloid-reading public that one is dating, say, Carla Bruni.)

    Trump’s history with women is of course a weird and creepy one. He has a habit of getting involved with women with whom he has a financial relationship, and, as ABC News put it, Stormy Daniels says their “relationship ended when Trump told her she would not be cast on The Apprentice.” Trump mixes up his money problems with his women problems—he is one of those guys who every now and then slams his dick in the cash register. Melania Trump—who a few years ago won a defamation case against the Daily Mail that had claimed she worked as a high-end escort before her marriage to Trump—posed for skin-magazine photographs that might charitably be described as lesbian-porn adjacent—and, indeed, Trump himself has made cameo appearances in three pornographic films produced by Playboy Enterprises. Melania was an employee of Trump’s dodgy and now-defunct modeling agency, which, according to several former employees, employed illegal immigrants and serially abused the H1-B visa program.

    Trump’s transparent attempts to buy women often have gone spectacularly wrong: One of his many stupid vanity projects was his acquisition of the Plaza Hotel in New York, a bad plan he made worse by putting his then-wife, Ivana, in charge of the project as president of the company. The couple drove New York’s most famous hotel into a state of financial ruination, and Trump ultimately was bailed out by Saudi princeling Al Waleed bin Talal. The politician and the princeling later got into a Twitter spat—because this is Donald Trump we’re talking about—and the Saudi tycoon mocked Trump, noting that he had bailed him out twice (he had bought a yacht from Trump to provide a much-needed cash infusion when he was in the middle of an earlier business crisis, because Trump was pretty much always in a business crisis) and suggested that there might be a third time.

    I'm a little surprised that KDW got the word "dick" in that context past the Dispatch editors.

  • I've always been a fan. My mom used to recall the time that I, at two years of age, bounced on a hotel bed in Norway, rhapsodizing about how I missed Ritz Crackers and Welch's Grape Juice. No doubt that this set me on my free-market fandom, because as Jake Klein reports: The Story of the Ritz Cracker Is the Story of Capitalism.

    When you last visited the supermarket, you likely walked past a box you’ve seen many times before. The Ritz Cracker has been a staple on American store shelves for 90 years, yet today the snack is often looked down upon; its mass-produced, corporate, and carb-heavy nature has fallen out of favor in an era preferring craft-made, local, and gluten-free foods.

    But the Ritz Cracker is worth taking a second look at. There’s more to this simple snack than you might think.

    When the Invisible Hand offers you a Ritz, just say yes.

Last Modified 2024-06-04 6:12 PM EDT

Rose and Jack Could Have Fit on That Door

But that's not important right now:

Also of note:

  • Maybe they'll learn something? Katherine Mangu-Ward observes a recent trend in higher education: SWAT Goes to College

    A gray-haired Dartmouth professor was tackled, zip-tied, and detained on May 1 along with about 90 other protesters. "I've been teaching here for 34 years," Annelise Orleck told The New York Times after video of the arrest went viral. "There have been many protests, but I've never, ever seen riot police called to the green."

    Much of the debate about the campus protests sparked by the Israel-Hamas war has centered—quite reasonably—on
questions around free speech, civil disobedience, and violence. When do chants become threats? When does blocking access to a building become the use of force? Less attention has been paid to the role of policing. But even as Americans have become numb to the militarization of police in other contexts, there's something shocking about the sight of cops in riot gear on college campuses.

    I get that, I do. Certainly our local news media hastened to point out that the cops who broke up the attempted "encampment" at the University Near Here back in May were adorned in "riot gear".

    But that leaves the question: what is the proper attire when you're dealing with activists who "peaceably" refuse to adhere to a university's time/place/manner restrictions? Who set up a arm-linked human fence to prevent law enforcement from doing their job?

  • I don't want to know what my spirit animal is. But Kat Rosenfield has done her homework, and finds: Trump is Hillary Clinton's spirit animal. RTWT, but here's an excerpt:

    It’s hard not to see the current state of the discourse as an obvious outgrowth of an earlier phenomenon that Vox writer Emmet Rensin termed the “smug style” in American liberalism, “predicated on the belief that American life is not divided by moral difference or policy divergence — not really — but by the failure of half the country to know what’s good for them”.

    It is also hard not to find Hillary’s armchair quarterbacking of the upcoming election a bit rich, considering the source, and particularly when her own smug style is at least partly to blame for getting us into this mess. We all have that highlight reel of cringeworthy moments that runs through our head when we’re awake and anxious at 3am: the verbal fumbles, the jokes that didn’t land, that time a waiter said, “Enjoy your linguini”, and you, an idiot, replied: “You, too!” If I were Hillary Clinton, I would be lying awake at night, wondering how different my life — all our lives — would be, had I never uttered the words, “basket of deplorables”.

    But that’s me; the former candidate, on the other hand, seems disinclined toward accepting any culpability for the current state of affairs. Rather, she imagines herself as Cassandra, standing athwart the ignorant public and the ideologically blinkered members of her own party alike, a grandiose notion that appears to have only intensified in the wake of Trump’s conviction. About five minutes after the verdict came in, Hillary took to Instagram to announce the addition of a new product to her merch store: a mug emblazoned with her likeness and the words, “TURNS OUT SHE WAS RIGHT ABOUT EVERYTHING.”

    How can we miss her if she won't go away?

  • The odds were in my favor, I had 'em five to one. Jeff Jacoby has an excellent question: If you can wager on the price of orange juice, why not on elections? Considerable time is spent on the antics of Don Ameche and Ralph Bellamy in Trading Places, which you should watch if you haven't, great cast. But:

    Last month […] the Commodity Futures Trading Commission voted 3-2 for a new rule forbidding the use of event contracts for betting on national elections. Its purpose, The Wall Street Journal reported, was "to clarify the boundaries between gambling and financial markets." The proposal — still preliminary — would prevent [prediction market] Kalshi from expanding its business into political wagers. It would also force PredictIt, an exchange that does offer markets on the outcome of elections, to shut down that part of its operation.

    According to Rostin Behnam, the CFTC chairman, political betting markets must be suppressed because they threaten "election integrity and the democratic process." If wagering on politics is allowed to continue, the commission could find itself obliged to investigate charges of election fraud — an especially unwelcome prospect for a Wall Street regulator given the degree of American polarization. Two activists who agree with him — Dennis Kelleher of Better Markets and Lisa Gilbert of Public Citizen — argued in the Los Angeles Times last week that "to allow betting on elections through the commodities market . . . could unleash a torrent of misinformation" and "create powerful new incentives for bad actors to influence voters and manipulate the results to favor their bets."

    But there is little or no evidence to substantiate such fears. To be sure, misinformation has always been a feature of political campaigns and will continue to be with or without political futures contracts. As for inducing "bad actors" to manipulate the results — such vote-tampering is already illegal and would be subject to prosecution. In any case, to shift the outcome of a national election would require a daunting level of coordinated corruption, something far beyond the scope of a crooked county official or polling-place judge.

    The line between "investing" and "betting" is pretty fuzzy, and a lot depends on the psychology of the investor/bettor.

Mister, We Could Use a Procurator General like Andrey Vyshinsky Again

Andrey Vyshinsky is credibly cited as the originator of the famous Stalin-era quote: "Give me the man and I will give you the case against him." (Alternates: Beria or Stalin himself.) A quote that's been making the rounds thanks to a recent American legal proceeding.

That's the short version. For the long version, read Andy McCarthy in this gifted link: In Memory of Justice

The country we love has become unlovely.

It pains me to say that. But I can’t help but feel the same anguish written on the faces of friends who, like me, grew up in the justice system. Friends who couldn’t care less about Donald Trump, who won’t vote for him, who look at the cynical circus that just closed down in lower Manhattan as still more confirmation of his appalling judgment and character . . . but who remember what American law enforcement was at its imperfect best. Friends who verge on weeping openly over what’s happened to it.

Our system embodied the rule of law, the sturdy undercarriage of a free, prosperous, pluralistic society. Now, on its good days, it’s a clown show. On the bad days — there are far too many of those — it’s a political weapon.

If you enact laws that reflect civic virtue, and you enforce them without fear or favor, and if you work really hard at it because it’s no easy thing, you can have liberty in all its feisty splendor. But as the rule of law degrades into the rule of partisan lawyers, a constitutional republic inexorably decays into a banana republic. And it won’t take long.

Our system embodied the rule of law, the sturdy undercarriage of a free, prosperous, pluralistic society. Now, on its good days, it’s a clown show. On the bad days — there are far too many of those — it’s a political weapon.

Again, this isn’t about Trump. He is just the floor model. Don’t mistake him for the phenomenon itself.

If you've not been following McCarthy's ongoing commentary on the case, this article is an excellent (if depressing) overview.

[Amazon Link]
(paid link)
Let me link to an article from Stephen Holmes in the London Review of Books that also mentions the Vyshinsky/Beria/Stalin quote: Give me the man.

Surprise! That article is a quarter-century old! And one of the books Holmes is reviewing is from a famous lawyer who's also been commenting on the current case, Alan Dershowitz. (Amazon link at your right.) Sample:

To put Starr’s prosecutorial style in the proper historical perspective, Dershowitz cites Lavrenti Beria: ‘give me the man, and I will find the crime.’ In non-Stalinist systems, prosecutors usually start with a crime (the body of a murder victim, for instance), and then try to discover the culprit. Notoriously, Starr began with a man and spent more than 40 million taxpayers’ dollars on a fishing expedition trying to uncover any and every infraction his target might possibly have committed over a political lifetime. To shift from a Soviet to an American analogy, Starr used ‘means more typically associated with attempts to prosecute mafia dons, rather than political figures’. That was not exactly the purpose of the Independent Counsel Act and it is not what most Americans expect from the rule of law.

Older readers are invited to read the article and cast their minds back to the legal woes of a different sleazeball president, and recall what his defenders and antagonists were saying at the time. Of course, there are differences. But…

Never mind that. Let's "move on" (dot org) to our weekly look at how all this momentous, historical news affected the oddsmakers:

Candidate EBO Win
Donald Trump 50.8% -2.0%
Joe Biden 40.7% +2.2%
Michelle Obama 2.8% unch
Robert Kennedy Jr 2.2% unch
Other 3.5% -0.2%

Executive summary: Trump took a hit with the punters, but he's still the favorite by over ten percentage points.

(Parenthetical note: The MoveOn organization I linked to above was originally founded to urge Congress to "Censure President Clinton and Move On to Pressing Issues Facing the Nation" instead of impeachment. If you click over, you'll see they aren't in any mood to extend similar advice to Trump's opponents, either when impeachment was going on, or now.)

Also of note:

A couple of Dispatch articles, probably paywalled, sorry, but expressing the depressing alternatives likely to be available at the polls in November.

First up is Matthew J. Franck, who advocates Choosing Not to Choose.

Eight years ago, I published an essay for Public Discourse about why I could not vote for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. “Vote as if your ballot determines nothing whatsoever—except the shape of your own character,” the piece concluded. “Vote as if the public consequences of your action weigh nothing next to the private consequences. The country will go whither it will go, when all the votes are counted. What should matter the most to you is whither you will go, on and after this November’s election day.”

There is nothing in what I said then that I would now retract. I rejected the idea that I, as one individual, must treat my choice as confined to the binary of Clinton versus Trump, as though the weight of the outcome were on me alone. It is frequently the case that we vote for one major-party presidential candidate principally because we are against the other one—usually because we find “our guy” a less than optimal choice but “the other guy” strongly repellent. But when we conclude that both of them are wholly unfit for office, our habitual partisan commitments, and our fond hope that the one representing “our side” will be normal, or guided by normal people, do not compel us to cast a vote in that direction. What we must consider, I argued, is not our role in the outcome of the election (which is negligible, and unknown to us when voting), but the effect on our conscience and character of joining our will to a bad cause.

His depressing recommendation:

In an election year that features Cornel West and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. as off-brand fringe choices, writing in a name, skipping the presidential line on the ballot, or just staying home looks pretty good.

And let's add Chase Oliver to that list of fringe choices!

But Franck's way is not the way of fellow-Dispatcher Nick Catoggio, who advocates Choosing to Choose.

The question isn’t “Biden or Trump?” so much as it’s “Should we continue with the constitutional order as we’ve known it or try something radically different?”

I’ll guarantee here and now that if Trump becomes president again and remains in good health he’ll try to extend his term in office past 2029. I won’t guarantee that he’ll succeed, but the attempt will be made as surely as you’re reading this. Trump is less a person than a personality type and his type is compelled to pursue its own interests remorselessly above all things. I think he’d honestly find it hard to comprehend why someone in his position shouldn’t try to extend their time in power.

Biden won’t do that if reelected. (And not just because he might be catatonic by 2029.) He won’t defy court orders. He won’t stock the leadership of the Justice Department with fanatics who have sworn an oath of allegiance to him personally. He won’t call the military out into the streets to confront people protesting him. And, contra Franck, I don’t believe he’ll claim a “mandate” if he wins, since he’s all but certain to do so with fewer electoral votes than he received in 2020 and with a Republican takeover of the Senate.

I think Franck has the better argument here. But let me make my usual recommendation: read both, subscribing if necessary, and (you don't need my permission but) make up your own mind.

The Imaginary Piggy Bank Turns Out To Be Empty, Anyway

Veronique de Rugy notices what the politicians are trying to ignore: The Congressional Budget Office Gives Dire Alternative Economic Futures.

Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projections provide valuable insights into how a big chunk of your income is being spent and reveal the long-term consequences of our government's current fiscal policies—you may endure them, and your children most certainly will. Yet, like most other projections looking into our future, these numbers should be taken with a grain of salt. So should claims that CBO projections validate anyone's fiscal track record.

So much can and likely will happen to make projections moot and our fiscal outlook much grimmer. Unforeseen events, economic changes, and policy decisions render them less accurate over time. The CBO knows this and recently released alternative scenarios based on different sets of assumptions, and it doesn't look good. It remains a wonder that more politicians, now given a more realistic range of possibilities, aren't behaving like it.

First, let's recap what the situation looks like under the usual rosy growth, inflation, and interest rate assumptions. Due to continued overspending, this year's deficit will be at least $1.6 trillion, rising to $2.6 trillion by 2034. Debt held by the public equals roughly 99 percent of our economy—measured by gross domestic product (GDP)—annually, heading to 116 percent in 2034.

To emphasize: that's the fabled Rosy Scenario.

You can read the CBO report for yourself here. Try to find anyone out there talking about it besides Vero. And now me, I guess.

Also of note:

  • Spock is arching a disapproving eyebrow. Jacob Sullum thinks he's detected a rip in the space/time continuum: The Prosecution's Story About Trump Featured Several Logically Impossible Claims.

    Last January, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg summed up his case against Donald Trump this way: "We allege falsification of business records to the end of keeping information away from the electorate. It's an election interference case."

    That gloss made no sense, because the records at the center of the case—11 invoices, 11 checks, and 12 ledger entries that allegedly were aimed at disguising a hush-money reimbursement as payment for legal services—were produced after the 2016 presidential election. At that point, Michael Cohen, Trump's lawyer, had already paid porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 to keep her from talking about her alleged 2006 sexual encounter with Trump, and Trump had already been elected. The prosecution's case against Trump, which a jury found persuasive enough to convict him on all 34 counts yesterday, was peppered with temporal puzzles like this one.

    If there's a legal analysis that resolves these "temporal puzzles", I'd like to see it. (I tried looking at the article's comment section at Reason, but it's a cesspool.)

  • But as Tina pointed out, we don't need another one. Noah Rothman thinks this would make a lousy Mad Max movie anyway: There Are No Heroes Here

    Much the same could be said for the pallid morality play to which heavy-breathing partisans insist we are all now privy. Among committed Democrats and their allies, Donald Trump’s conviction in a Manhattan courtroom is “justice done.” They appear to believe we should be grateful to them for the unprecedented actions they took to get at Trump however they could, unleashing unknowable forces in the process, forces that our generation and those that come after us must now contend with. Thanks so much.

    Likewise, the American Right seems inclined to beatify Trump — a man possessed of such incomprehensible venality and recklessness that he would put the country through his personal drama. He must be made into, if not a paragon of virtue, at least a sympathetic victim. What twaddle. It’s possible to believe, as I do, that Trump was railroaded on charges for which no one else would be prosecuted — much less in the sordid way it was prosecuted, which is why we have appellate courts in the first place — and still deny him the role of savior. On the right, however, that appears to be a minority viewpoint.

    That's an NR "gifted" link, my first of the month, so click away. I think Rothman has it exactly right.

  • [Amazon Link]
    (paid link)
    For some reason, the title is unavailable at Amazon. Maybe Rich Lowry's article is a little too timely a tale: EV fail exposes Pete Buttigieg as the little cabinet secretary who couldn’t.

    Rarely has a cabinet secretary done so little with such vast resources.

    On the CBS show “Face the Nation,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg had to defend the Biden administration’s woeful record of building new electric vehicle charging stations that are key to unlocking its hoped-for EV nirvana.

    Host Margaret Brennan asked how it could be that, with $7.5 billion allocated for this purpose two years ago, the administration has managed to build eight.

    Not 8,000, or even 80. Eight.

    I'm impressed that a CBS news show actually posed such tough questioning.