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  1. Or: When a Call to Arms Amounts to an Early Post-Mortem Governor Brian Kemp was primaried by a Trump-backed candidate, but won reelection in Georgia by over seven percent. Herschel Walker lost a runoff. (Image by the Office of U.S. Senator David Perdue, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.)Even if I were the type to stay up for election results -- I am not -- I am pretty sure I could have slept through reporting on the Georgia runoff, which pitted a leftist clergyman against an empty suit. Candidate quality matters, Republicans who say But, but, ... Fetterman won! to the contrary. I will not stoop to trying to argue about which of a snake-oil salesman (Oz) or a loony-lefty stroke victim (Fetterman) is "preferable." Ditto for whether a leftist pastor (Warnock), or a multiply-concussed, anti-abortion philanderer (Walker) is a "better" or even "less bad" candidate. They were all atrocious, and were all easily beatable -- unless running against other low-quality candidates. Instead, I'll let a conservative columnist do the talking for me. The very fact that Deroy Murdock felt the need to write a column titled "Republicans Should Walk Hard for Herschel and a 50/50 Senate," just about says it all. The piece goes into detail about why a 50-50 Senate with the Vice President's tiebreaking vote giving the Democrats a majority is preferable to a 51-49 Senate. He's right about that, but he should think deeply about why he's having to talk about it in the first place. First of all, that's thin gruel to even just to motivate casting a ballot. Second, Walker is the last of the handful of awful Senate candidates Donald Trump backed in a midterm election the Republicans should have won handily. Set aside the fact that Trump effectively turned the election from Biden's midterm into a second one for himself by making the election about himself: Trump had already cost his party several chances to achieve 50-50, such as by backing the snake oil salesman. Murdock's column should be reframed in hindsight: The increased power of an outright majority over 50-50 is what Trump has already cost the GOP: Republicans should be angry at Trump. If you're basically saying Hey! He may be a brain-damaged kook, but he'll get us to 50-50, you're already playing damage control. Rather than carrying water for Trump, Murdock and lots of other conservatives should realize that Trump is causing their party to lose, and make that abundantly clear to their readers. Then they should and could very soon start talking about a better alternative that voters could get excited about, instead. -- CAVLink to Original
  2. "Government funding means government control." -- Me to a lefty friend years ago, on why I would not sign her petition for more government "support" of the arts. *** Two professors writing for the James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal argue that "Administrators Have Seized the Ivory Tower." I think the below nicely summarizes what they lay out, as far as the symptoms go:Image by Vadim Sherbakov, via Unsplash, license.The university community faces an expanding bureaucratic framework that values visibility more than substance. The faculty faces an administration that is increasingly indifferent to the variety and nuance of their research and the substance of their teaching. There is more and more empty praise for faculty members in the form of prosaic honors and unimaginative "certificates of appreciation," but less and less understanding of what faculty do and why. Even the focus on the intellectual development of students is being sacrificed to the vacuous goal of "student satisfaction." In many respects, university administrators are academia's answer to what has become known as the "professional managerial class," or PMC. As Catherine Liu argues in a recent book, the PMC is comprised of educated professionals who embrace a moralizing progressive ideology while believing that it can be realized only in a top-down, hierarchical manner... [bold added]They make a few stabs at causes, but I found their analysis unsatisfying. Yes, there is corruption. Yes, recent economy-wide (and state-caused!) financial pressures have made administrators keenly aware of budgetary perils. And, yes, politicians of all stripes are pressuring colleges to "provide students with 'job-ready' skills." I would respectfully submit that they more deeply consider how much the government has academia's neck in the grasp of its grubby little fingers. Per my title, Ludwig von Mises's Bureaucracy will help show, in a mechanistic way, why the college administration bureaucracy keeps growing. That covers "expanding." As for "progressive [sic] ideology" (which arguably includes some entire faddish areas of study), that is very well laid out by a relatively obscure work that deserves much greater attention: Ayn Rand's 1972 essay, "The Establishing of an Establishment," which is most easily found as a chapter in Philosophy: Who Needs It. While Mises lays out the general process by which bureaucracy grows, Rand explains how government funding intellectually corrupted academia itself long ago:[T]he premise to check is the idea that governmental repression is the only way a government can destroy the intellectual life of a country. It is not. There is another way: governmental encouragement. Governmental encouragement does not order men to believe that the false is true: it merely makes them indifferent to the issue of truth or falsehood. Bearing this preface in mind, let us consider an example of the methods, processes and results of that policy. [bold added]This precedes a case study of a "plum" research grant awarded to B.F. Skinner, which Rand concludes in part with:t is viciously improper for the government to subsidize the enemies of our political system; it is also viciously improper for the government to assume the role of an ideological arbiter. But neither Representative [Cornelius E.] Gallagher [(D-NJ)] nor The New Republic chose to see the answer: that those evils are inherent in the vicious impropriety of the government subsidizing ideas. Both chose to ignore the fact that any intrusion of government into the field of ideas, for or against anyone, withers intellectual freedom and creates an official orthodoxy, a privileged elite. Today, it is called an "Establishment." ... Consider the desperate financial plight of private universities, then ask yourself what a "bonanza" of this kind will do to them. It is generally known that most universities now depend on government research projects as one of their major sources of income. The government grants to those "Senior" researchers establish every recipient as an unofficially official power. It is his influence -- his ideas, his theories, his preferences in faculty hiring -- that will come to dominate the school, in a silent, unadmitted way. What debt-ridden college administrator would dare antagonize the carrier of the bonanza? ... The worst part of it is the fact that this method of selection is not confined to the cowardly or the corrupt, that the honest official is obliged to use it. The method is forced on him by the terms of the situation. To pass an informed, independent judgment on the value of every applicant or project in every field of science, an official would have to be a universal scholar. If he consults "experts" in the field, the dilemma remains: either he has to be a scholar who knows which experts to consult -- or he has to surrender his judgment to men trained by the very professors he is supposed to judge. The awarding of grants to famous "leaders," therefore, appears to him as the only fair policy -- on the premise that "somebody made them famous, somebody knows, even if I don't." [bold added]But Gus, they were talking about power-hungry, woke administrators, not professors! you might say. Yes, that is true, but that establishment educated those administrators, including the ones plucked from its own ranks, so it is a highly relevant part of the problem. Government "encouragement" of prominent researchers created an intellectual establishment by causing incompetent or biased showering of money on prominent intellectuals, severing merit from reward. That establishment then educated the bureaucrats who would later staff the metastasizing bureaucracy so created. It may not be obvious that this was a practically guaranteed outcome, but it should not be surprising. -- CAVLink to Original
  3. Conservative Ross Douthat complains at length that Canada permits euthanasia. It is worthwhile to consider what Douthat complains about. He opens:La Maison Simons, commonly known as Simons, is a prominent Canadian fashion retailer. In late October it released a three-minute film: a moody, watery, mystical tribute. Its subject was the suicide of a 37-year-old British Columbia woman, Jennyfer Hatch, who was approved for what Canadian law calls "Medical Assistance in Dying" amid suffering associated with Ehlers Danlos syndrome, a group of disorders that affect the body's connective tissues. In an interview quoted in Canada's National Post, the chief merchant of Simons stated that the film was "obviously not a commercial campaign." Instead it was a signifier of a public-spirited desire to "build the communities that we want to live in tomorrow, and leave to our children." For those communities and children, the video's message is clear: They should believe in the holiness of euthanasia. [bold added]I have embedded the video below, but I have not made my mind up on it. It is touching in its portrayal of Hatch and what she loved about life. At the same time, it was made with the aim of persuading people that assisted suicide is a good thing, and I am inclined to think that it ends up being red meat for most of those who already share that opinion and repellent for most of those who don't. One tribe will mock this, another will love this. I am not a tribesman. But it's Douthat's reaction I am discussing now. (I certainly don't think the video offers a comprehensive defense of euthanasia, but I don't think it pretends to, either.) After basically damning the video for being a mystical, emotional appeal and mocking the idea that euthanasia might be a good, holy thing, Douthat begins building what he sees as a case against it:...Canada has established some of the world's most permissive euthanasia laws, allowing adults to seek either physician-assisted suicide or direct euthanasia for many different forms of serious suffering, not just terminal disease. In 2021, over 10,000 people ended their lives this way, just over 3 percent of all deaths in Canada. A further expansion, allowing euthanasia for mental-health conditions, will go into effect in March 2023; permitting euthanasia for "mature" minors is also being considered. [bold added]There is no word on how many unassisted suicides or how much suffering those 10,000 assisted deaths averted. Nor is there any data regarding how many curable conditions have been allowed to progress or been made worse by that system to the point that suicide looks like a good option. And, while Douthat seems plausibly to oppose overly permissive euthanasia laws, don't forget the subject of the video he complained about. (I, who support assisted suicide for competent adults, oppose the same for anyone unable to give legal consent.) But Douthat continues in that vein, aided by the fact that Canada's health system is run by the government, and so has the real and disturbing prospect of bureaucrats pushing euthanasia as a way to "cut ... health care costs." I advocate the right to end one's own life and I find that disturbing. My solution to that problem would be: Privatize medical care. That does not appear to be Douthat's. Instead, that bureaucracy is brushed aside even less conspicuously than he dismisses Donald Trump's recent mealtime dalliance with anti-Semites, because he has even bigger -- dare I say faith-based -- fish to fry:[T]he further de-Christianization proceeds, the stronger the impulse to go where the Simons video already went -- to rationalize the new order with implicit reassurances that it's what some higher power wants. It's often treated as a defense of euthanasia that the most intense objections come from biblical religion. But spiritual arguments never really disappear, and the liberal order in a dystopian twilight will still be infused by some kind of religious faith. So I remain a conservative... [bold added]Got that? Douthat, who mocks the video for being mystical and now seems happy to pretend that the morality of euthanasia is premised on some kind of religious faith has nothing really to offer against "the liberal order" -- which, by the way, is hardly the only alternative to religion. Unless you count mysticism and faith. I don't. Having said this, I am sure plenty of leftists do basically assert the goodness of euthanasia as if it were an article of faith: Many people correctly liken many aspects of environmentalism, a major current of the left, to a religion, for example. But that doesn't make euthanasia an article of faith, nor does it mean euthanasia is properly supported from the left any more than capitalism is supported from the right. Man's inalienable right to his own life is why he has the right to end it on his own. (And for the same reason, he should do so at his own expense, should he choose to do so.) I will not defend that at length here, but I will end by quoting Ayn Rand on three matters directly pertinent to the above. I do this in part, because the following line from the pro-euthanasia film disturbed me: Last breaths are sacred. I can't let Douthat's imperative to suffer and the gloominess common on the left (that arguably permeates the film) go without at least pointing to a few major better alternatives to aspects of the mystical, religious view of life common to both. First, Rand has this to say about philosophy, the little-known alternative to religion:Philosophy is the goal toward which religion was only a helplessly blind groping. The grandeur, the reverence, the exalted purity, the austere dedication to the pursuit of truth, which are commonly associated with religion, should properly belong to the field of philosophy. [bold added]Second, she rescues the meaning of the word sacred (and related concepts) from religion:I will ask you to project the look on a child's face when he grasps the answer to some problem he has been striving to understand. It is a radiant look of joy, of liberation, almost of triumph, which is unself-conscious, yet self-assertive, and its radiance seems to spread in two directions: outward, as an illumination of the world -- inward, as the first spark of what is to become the fire of an earned pride. If you have seen this look, or experienced it, you know that if there is such a concept as "sacred" -- meaning: the best, the highest possible to man -- this look is the sacred, the not-to-be-betrayed, the not-to-be-sacrificed for anything or anyone. [bold added]And finally, there is this exchange from her novel, We the Living:"Do you believe in God, Andrei?" "No." "Neither do I. But that's a favorite question of mine. An upside-down question, you know." "What do you mean?" "Well, if I asked people whether they believed in life, they'd never understand what I meant. It's a bad question. It can mean so much that it really means nothing. So I ask them if they believe in God. And if they say they do -- then, I know they don't believe in life." "Why?" "Because, you see, God -- whatever anyone chooses to call God -- is one's highest conception of the highest possible. And whoever places his highest conception above his own possibility thinks very little of himself and his life. It's a rare gift, you know, to feel reverence for your own life and to want the best, the greatest, the highest possible, here, now, for your very own. To imagine a heaven and then not to dream of it, but to demand it." "You're a strange girl." "You see, you and I, we believe in life. But you want to fight for it, to kill for it, even to die -- for life. I only want to live it." [bold added] (p. 107)Religious conservatives such as Douthat and mystical leftists alike are wrong about what is sacred and when. Holiness is neither a few hours a week on Sunday nor only at the end of life: Every day and every breath of a life one chooses to live rationally is sacred. And that life doesn't belong to a god or "society:" It is yours. I hope I die peacefully, and blissfuly unaware of the event. But if I find myself in circumstances in which continuing to live is unbearable, I would like the option of ending it on my own terms, as is my right. Douthat happens to be right on one point: It is obscene for a government scheme that deprives people of their money (and their medical autonomy with it) to push death as a "solution" to their problems. But it is no less obscene to demand that another person live and suffer against his wishes. -- CAVLink to Original
  4. Odds and Ends 1. This soccer fan has been pleasantly surprised by the performances the United States Men's National Team have turned in en route to advancing from the group stage in the World Cup. In its last match, a must-win against Iran, every single starting player on the pitch played professionally for a club in a major European league for what I think is the first time. That in itself is a sign of progress for soccer in the U.S. But I have managed to watch every American game so far and like what I've seen: In the two draws, we should have beaten Wales outright, and could have defeated England. We beat Iran and were the only team they faced to shut them out. In every game, we had a lot more of the ball than I expected, based on past tournaments. Christian Pulisic, who scored the winner against Iran is, understandably, the face of the team, but other players have impressed, particularly the team captain, Tyler Adams, who plays defensive midfield, my old position. The British Guardian recently ran a good profile of the player, which I'll excerpt:Cutting his teeth in two of the world's best leagues has done wonders for Adams' play and it's paid off handsomely in Qatar, where he's passed well and made countless important interceptions in the No 6 role, helping the Americans overrun the midfield for long stretches. But as Berhalter has noted, his readiness as a locker-room leader was apparent from the moment he made his international debut back in 2017. "We think he has great leadership capabilities and he leads by his actions and his words," Berhalter said. "Tyler's a guy that's just mature beyond his years, and you notice it from the minute you start talking to him. He's a guy that teammates know exactly what they're going to get from him. They know that he's going to go out on the field and compete." For Adams, who wants to pursue sports psychology once his playing days are done, it's a moment that he's prepared for since he first broke in with the national team.The piece mentions Adams's composure during a press conference in which Iranian journalists tried to bait him with questions about racial discrimination in the United States. That impressed me, too, and I was glad to read more about Adams, who, at only 24, looks like he will be an important player for the US for the better part of another decade. 2. Facing a ten-hour drive to Mississippi the day before Thanksgiving, I smiled when I got the answer, D-R-I-V-E, to that day's Wordle. But then I recall getting H-A-P-P-Y, F-E-A-S-T, and C-L-E-A-N within a week or so of that. Slate confirms my suspicion that something was afoot at the New York Times with a piece titled, "The New Wordle Editor Is Ruining Wordle." I think something like that -- once in a while -- is fine, but the barrage of themed words was a little too much. File under too good not to post: Via GeekPress comes this very well-done Lord of the Rings-themed "Uptown Funk" parody. 3. The Word of the Day is Anglish:Anglish is how we might speak if the Normans had been beaten at Hastings, and if we had not made inkhorn words out of Latin, Greek and French. So, we say things like 'hearty' instead of 'cordial', and 'wordbook' instead of 'dictionary'. Read more about the History of Anglish here on the Wiki...I bumped into the word elsewhere, and I can't tolerate not knowing what a word means, so here we are. 4. In an amusing juxtaposition of bookmarks after I filtered for material for today's post, I see that I have successive entries for (1) a collection of obsolete sounds, and (2) an Ars Technica piece titled, "Amazon Alexa Is a "Colossal Failure," on Pace to Lose $10 Billion This Year." She Who Must Not Be Named may not make enough money for Amazon, but I hope she does not end up being scrapped altogether! -- CAVLink to Original
  5. Imagine if every person in the world had the ability, at their arbitrary whim, to anonymously activate your fire alarm inside your home. That is the reality of the telephone. There is nothing quite as rude as the telephone. -- Jim Fisher*** Image by Robert Linder, via Unsplash, license.I'm old enough to remember telephone etiquette changing with the advent of the answering machine. At first, lots of people thought it was rude to make people listen to a recorded message if you weren't around. But within a year or so, most people were on board with the idea when the many advantages of being able to leave a message became more obvious. After that and prices coming down, if you didn't have an answering machine, you risked seeming rude or out of touch. In that vein, some recent advice by Judith Martin caused me to realize that text messaging, in addition to obviating most voice messages and many kinds of short calls, might finally also banish the ringer -- that scourge of the information age -- to the dustbin of history, where it belongs. The reader does not like texts amounting to Call me when you can for reasons that remind me of the pre-answering-machine era, despite the reliance on voice messages:I think if a person wants to speak with me, they should call. If I am available, I will answer. If not, they can leave a message and I will call them back. The text method feels like they are putting the burden of initiating the call on me, when they are the ones who want to speak with me.I am far from slapping myself on the back, here, though, because I myself have bristled at such texts because I, too, focused on the "burden." I was wrong to do, as Miss Manners makes clear:[T]he text is less intrusive -- and therefore more respectful -- than barging in on someone, assuming constant availability.Yes, but again, I -- who have complained before about how useless ringers are these days -- must admit that I still missed the brilliance of that multiple times. The unseen benefit to me here is the lack of an annoying distraction, the ringer. (Unless I expect to hear from someone, I mute my cell phone ringer and text notifications, and batch-review for important messages a few times a day.) In addition, many text apps have an option to call in reply, which is perfect for such messages, and especially those times you receive such a text in real time, as I have. Many thanks to Miss Manners for pointing that out: I won't look at such messages the same way again, and will use this device myself in the future for all but calls to parties that expect them, or for time-sensitive matters. My title to the contrary, the ringer isn't obsolete, of course, but its intrusiveness and ease of abuse seem close to being solved. -- CAV P.S. If I recall correctly, Google Voice can be made to intercept calls to land lines, permitting voice messages with transcription. If so, I'll do this so I can have a superior alternative to the expedient of unplugging my land line when I need to concentrate. Link to Original
  6. We live in strange times indeed: I found myself momentarily nodding in agreement with something Paul Krugman -- of all people -- said this morning after reading his editorial regarding the unrest in China, which began as a rebuke of Xi's "zero Covid" policies:Image by the Government of Japan, via Wikimedia Commons, license.[W]hat can the rest of us learn from China? First, autocracy is not, in fact, superior to democracy. Autocrats can act quickly and decisively, but they can also make huge mistakes because nobody can tell them when they're wrong. At a fundamental level there's a clear resemblance between Xi's refusal to back off zero Covid and Vladimir Putin's disaster in Ukraine. Second, we're seeing why it's important for leaders [Why only them? --ed] to be open to evidence and be willing to change course when they've been proved wrong. ... In short, what we can learn from China is broader than the failure of specific policies; it is that we should beware of would-be autocrats who insist, regardless of the evidence, that they're always right. [bold added]I'd beware of any would-be autocrat, but let's indulge Krugman: If we presume for a moment that an autocrat really does know (and actually wants) what is best for his country, one who is open to evidence and will change course when he is wrong would be better than one who does not. The problem is, it is impossible for an "autocrat" -- or anyone else -- to know what is "best" for any nation beyond the requirements of proper government as applied to the peculiar circumstances of that nation. Anything else a government does beyond protecting the individual rights of its citizens violates those rights:The concept of a "right" pertains only to action -- specifically, to freedom of action. It means freedom from physical compulsion, coercion or interference by other men. Thus, for every individual, a right is the moral sanction of a positive -- of his freedom to act on his own judgment, for his own goals, by his own voluntary, uncoerced choice. As to his neighbors, his rights impose no obligations on them except of a negative kind: to abstain from violating his rights. [bold added]It is interesting to consider briefly some of the ramifications of such violations as they pertain to the pandemic, even in our relatively free "democracy" (i.e., mixed economy). I will leave thorough discussion of the proper role of government in a pandemic to the good people of the Ayn Rand Institute: I will only note here that "lockdowns" (i.e., indefinite mass detentions) of sick and healthy alike are gross violations of individual rights and had no place in any pandemic response we saw -- whether as harsh and long-lived as China's or as relatively mild and short as Florida's. To the best of my knowledge, only South Dakota's governor recognized that she did not have the authority to employ such a measure. Be that as it may, let's consider -- as does Krugman below -- the official reason our "democracy" committed these detentions:At first, the goal in the U.S. and many other countries was to "flatten the curve," avoiding a peak in cases that would overwhelm the health care system. Then, once it became clear that effective vaccines would become available, the goal was or should have been to delay infections until widespread vaccination could provide protection. [link omitted, bold added]It is interesting to note how widely this old, Bush-era idea was implemented, top-down in our "democracy" despite the fact that this strategy was contrary to the advice of such prominent epidemiologists as D.A. Henderson. Worse still, there are a few "would-be autocrats" I can think of on our own shores who'd love to continue and worsen such detentions. Randi Weingarten comes to mind. Furthermore, it is also worth asking why our hospital capacity was so inflexible vis-a-vis market demand in the first place. Regulations -- many of which were suspended during the pandemic in an implicit admission that they were problematic -- were largely to blame. Barrier to entry laws, for example, prevented physicians from practicing telehealth across state lines. "Certificate of Need" laws, for another example, prevented some hospitals from being built at all. On top of that, getting the vaccines out was slowed down, again by government regulations. People were prevented from volunteering for challenge testing, to take vaccines ahead of federal approval, or (since their distribution was controlled by the government from Day One) bid on doses. Rapid tests were held up even longer. The last two paragraphs are hardly exhaustive, but they should at least raise the possibility that ongoing government interference with the rights of doctors, patients, and everyone else involved in the medical sector -- in the form of regulatory central planning -- can be just as injurious to the public, and, although not because of the faults of a single individual, slow to change in the face of evidence of failure. Government is the one social institution that can legally wield physical force against individuals. When it does so for any reason other than protecting their right to act on their own conclusions, it prevents people from exercising their own judgement. An entrepreneur who sees opportunity in building a new hospital can't do so. A business willing to open to people not worried about a disease can't (per California) -- or one wishing to have vaccination as a condition of employment can't (per Florida). Autocracy is only the most dramatic form of central planning, and all central planning thwarts individuals from acting on their best judgement of reality, including weighing evidence and making up their minds. It is not just autocracy -- inflexible or not -- Krugman should warn us about, but central planning as such. -- CAVLink to Original
  7. Via the Yaron Brook Show, I learned that Donald Trump dined with noted Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes, alongside the more famous nutcase formerly known as Kanye West. Piers Morgan discusses the meeting at the New York Post, whose headline manages to sound like British tabloid sensationalism while actually being understatment: "The GOP must ditch anti-Semite embracer Trump -- or lose in 2024." I have argued -- and now have three consecutive losing elections to back me up -- that the GOP was already going to be in trouble if Trump is its presidential nominee in '24. But don't take my word for it. Democrats smell blood in the water. After this, it should be easy for any prominent Republican who has sense, a modicum of a desire for political self-preservation, or an ounce of moral fiber -- all in short supply there these days, I know -- to denounce him and help that party move on. Almost any halfway plausible candidate is better at this point. Naturally, Trump tried to play dumb, as Morgan notes:Image by "Modern-Day Debate," via Wikimedia Commons, license."Kanye West very much wanted to visit Mar-a-Lago," he said in one of various statements he's put out desperately trying to protect himself from the mounting outrage over the meal. "Our dinner meeting was intended to be Kanye and me only, but he arrived with a guest whom I had never met and knew nothing about." Oh, please. Trump is guarded by a large Secret Service detail at Mar-a-Lago. And I know how thorough they are about anyone who visits him, because in April this year, I interviewed Trump there and my whole crew was subjected to detailed checks before they arrived. The agents will have quickly worked out exactly who Fuentes is, and his background, and briefed Trump. [bold added]When I first heard of this meeting and Trump's explanation, I was flabbergasted: How careless or contemptuous of our intelligence can someone be? Does Trump not have someone to vet people he associates with? I had forgotten that, as a former President, he has a Secret Service detail. Set aside whether Trump is anti-Semitic and let's also, for the sake of argument, ignore the above and take Trump at his word: He should know based on the last election that he needs every ounce of support he can muster to win. It follows that he should be very concerned about the kind of people he associates with, lest he inadvertently raise suspicions among the very people whose support he wants. Hell, if he were anti-Semitic, he'd want to hide the fact at least until he was elected. So, is he (a) not possessed of enough sense to guard his own reputation, (b) truly this oblivious to easily-obtained information, or (c) as contemptuous of ordinary Americans (and so eager to curry the favor of the lunatic fringe) as this makes him look? I think any of the above possibilities makes someone unfit for office, and it would take a very good explanation indeed to convince me that Trump really didn't know who this is or regard him as worthy of his time in some way. One can only conclude that Trump is stupid, careless, bigoted, or kooky: Select any or all that apply, but know that any one of these renders him unfit to be President. -- CAVLink to Original
  8. Amid a record number of Covid cases -- that China is willing to admit, anyway -- its dictator has been continuing his immoral and impractical "lockdowns" -- i.e., indefinite mass detention. Earlier this month, I noted:Nobody who has considered the vast weight and variety of evidence about Covid from this three-year pandemic can rationally conclude that we are going to be able to eradicate this disease without also eradicating ourselves and its various host animal species. This was along the way to considering what the folly of lockdowns actually accomplished, rather than the official excuse for carrying them out was, and ending on this note:Let us hope the Chinese are a proud [people], and will soon stop tolerating being treated like dogs.Image by "Date20221127," via Wikimedia Commons, license.There are now hopeful signs of this, in the form of protests across the country, that apparently began after an apartment fire turned deadly in part due to the lockdown in place where it occurred. (One outlet called them the biggest protests since Tiananmen.) It is early days and news is hard to come by, what with "authorities" there manhandling journalists en route to detaining them. And with some calling for freedom and others singing the Internationale, it is anyone's guess what might happen in the long run. Still, one can only hope a people have awakened enough and in time to pull back from a potentially very dark era in its history. -- CAVLink to Original
  9. I am on break from blogging for the holiday and will return next Monday. Happy Thanksgiving! *** Veronique de Rugy, like many other non-left commentators, notes the recent electoral futility of the Republican Party under Donald Trumps' sway. (Leadership is not the right term for his dominance.) She then offers her thoughts on why. In the process, she does both major parties a favor by noting a major unmet need in American politics:[T]he GOP has a problem that runs deeper than Trump (though it may have gotten much worse under Trump). It's this: Republicans today stand for nothing, and on the rare occasions that they do stand for something, that something is woeful. From protectionism to vile anti-immigration rhetoric, from government-engineered paid leave to the extended child tax credit, and from threatening to punish big tech and to impose industrial policy, with a contingent shouting "free-markets are actually bad", the party is in disarray intellectually -- a fact that plausibly contributes to its current disarray politically. [links omitted, bold added]I think the problem is even worse than she thinks it is, but am glad someone of her stature is putting this out there. Notably, de Rugy both identifies herself as a classical liberal (i.e., an advocate of free markets) and, reminiscent of American abolitiionists, not havi[ing] a stake in either party. I, too, would welcome either party or both supporting pro-freedom positions I could vote for over the current race to the statist bottom. She also devotes lots of time on the related issue of immigration -- which, like freedom is part of what made America great, to reclaim a phrase being used by an orange-faced charlatan to sell snake oil lately:Ellis Island. (Image by Carol M. Highsmith, via Wikimedia Commons, no known restrictions on use.)[P]art of the classical-liberal package is also a rejection of hostility to immigration. There are many reasons why we should welcome immigrants to this country, no matter their skills and education levels. Bryan Caplan and many others have made the economic case better than I could. There are many moral and economic arguments worth having about how much immigration we need and how to go about reforming the system. But recently, arguments coming from the right haven't been about immigration but about immigrants themselves. Immigrants, especially lower skilled immigrants, are often talked about, as a class, in obnoxious and demeaning ways revealing a fundamental ignorant way about what it means to uproot oneself from a country and move to another. [links omitted, bold added]That rings a bell sounded by another immigrant, Ayn Rand, who argued that xenophobia was a manifestation of a type of psycho-epistemological functioning. De Rugy takes a different tangent, which should gently scold anyone who hasn't been paying attention to this issue and win the sympathy of any thoughtful reader. She discusses her own experience as an immigrant. In part:Enduring this hardship alone and having the courage and gumption to uproot oneself, I believe, deserves respect rather than the demeaning and baseless charges that so many Americans have, over the past seven years, flung at immigrants. We immigrants aren't angels, and some truly awful. But so are native borns. However, what sets us apart and should please Americans is that we've come here and decided to leave our homeland because we see something remarkable about the United States -- ironically, something remarkable that is no longer seen by so many native-born Americans. All of us -- native born and immigrants -- will next week celebrating Thanksgiving with a turkey (which for me is a special commitment since I don't really ... like turkey!). Agreed on both counts. (I also dislike turkey.) De Rugy passes over the question of immigrants burdening the welfare state, but that is a question I have taken up in the past, and I stand by that answer today. -- CAVLink to Original
  10. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Justin Hart reminds Americans of something many of them might have already forgotten: Donald Trump was for the Covid "lockdowns" before he was against them -- and he criticized governors from his own party for ending them "too soon."Mass indefinite home detention was hardly the only part of Trump's pandemic response that he should be held accountable for. (Image by The White House, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.)The White House Coronavirus Task Force, led by Vice President Mike Pence, Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, put the Constitution into an induced coma. Mr. Trump's decision to adopt Chinese Communist Party tactics and close down the country gave license to states to amplify and extend these terrible policies, to governors to wield unprecedented executive powers, and to school districts to shut students out for months or even years. Mr. Trump did very little to constrain this overreach. His dramatic Covid order shut down your business, barred your kids from school, denied you access to your church, your gym and your coffee shop. It suppressed screenings and treatments for cancer and other illnesses and kept people from visiting loved ones in the hospital or attending their funerals. Studies appear weekly confirming what almost everyone now acknowledges -- the lockdowns were futile as well as onerous. One set of researchers wrote: "Overall, we conclude that lockdowns are not an effective way of reducing mortality rates during a pandemic." Mr. Trump paid lip service to the need to reopen the country but never rallied lawmakers or other officials to do anything about it. It was left to governors like Brian Kemp of Georgia and Ron DeSantis of Florida to do that on their own. [links omitted and bold added]For the sake of completeness, and to avoid the understandable (but wrong) objection that Hart is writing from hindsight, the article should have also mentioned South Dakota's Kristi Noem, who correctly never adopted that policy, on the grounds that she did not have the authority to do so. As in many other respects, Trump (who said nothing about the lockdowns during his campaign announcement) will hope to win as the "Not Democrat" in 2024. And he may well not pay for his authoritarian sins -- at least until the general election -- if someone from his own party never challenges him on that issue in the form af a strong primary challenge. -- CAVLink to Original
  11. Blog Roundup 1. At Roots of Progress, Jason Crawford considers the question "When should we be surprised that an invention took 'so long'?" The short, high-level version of his interesting answer can be had by way of imperfect analogies:Image by Jacek Dylag, via Unsplash, license.You can think about this by analogy to stochastic processes in thermodynamics: the exact path of any given molecule is random, but in aggregate there are predictable patterns, and they are determined in part by macro-level factors such as temperature and pressure. You could think of total amount of R&D effort as like the temperature of a system, and the market size as a kind of pressure in a particular direction. Or in an electronic analogy, speed of communication is like conductivity in a material, a large market is like a high voltage differential, and social strictures are a kind of resistance. (These are rough analogies, not mathematical isomorphisms.)Fans of an earlier, viral essay of his will understand why he's "no longer surprised by the bicycle, either." 2. At Value for Value, Harry Binswanger offers some updates regarding his proposed book on free will, including the following:... I found a way to make the writing more pleasant. In fact downright enjoyable. I'm casting it, mainly or wholly, as a dialogue. (Which means I'm leaning to the polemical book.) I have two characters, a man and a woman. They are identified only as "He" and "She." The woman is the one with all the right answers. The man is well intentioned but has absorbed all the bromides of the culture. But he is refreshingly honest.Of the titles under consideration, I liked the third item of the bulleted list of possible titles for the polemical version of the book. 3. At the blog of the Texas Institute for Property Rights, Brian Phillips gives what I regard as a good "reasonable person litmus test" regarding freedom in today's increasingly collectivist political climate:We will not always like or agree with the choices that others make. The test of our commitment to freedom of choice is found during such occasions. If we truly support freedom of choice, then we must defend the freedom of every individual. To do otherwise is to claim that our gang should be free to choose, but others should not enjoy the same freedom.I think it can be a useful and productive tactic -- or a time-saving one, depending on the answer -- to guide political discussions in the direction of finding out whether someone is on that page. I have often said here that freedom is of a piece -- that there is no such thing as economic freedom without freedom of speech and vice versa. Freedom also applies to everyone or to no one, whether would-be "little dictators" imagine that to be the case or not... 4. At How to Be Profitable and Moral, Jaana Woiceshyn discusses dangerous groupthink about climate change. Along the way, she gives a great short description of how most people who buy climate catastrophism are operating, epistemologically:... This is groupthink: individuals giving up first-handed adherence to reality and independent thinking, accepting the majority's view as the truth, and trusting it to be based on facts.No matter how much or how little credence one gives to the idea that environmentalism is a religion, climate catastrophism particularly looks like one in the above respect. In addition, Woiceshyn gives the encouraging news that important drivers of cultural influence are beginning to question the dominant narrative and, more important, helping those persuaded to think for themselves about this issue do so. Within the post are links to books and articles worth keeping in mind for yourself or for anyone you know who might want to become better informed. Among them are pieces I hadn't heard of in such places as the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and New York Times Magazine. It is good news indeed that these arguments are showing up in establishment media and I look forward to reading them. -- CAVLink to Original
  12. In her Ask a Boss column, Alison Green replies to a question from an established remote worker whose proposed change of state residence was suddenly and mysteriously shot down by previously-supportive management. Regulars here might guess that the proposed state was California, and that its ban on contracting were to blame. They would be correct by coincidence on the first matter and seeing only the tip of the iceberg on the latter. Government meddling with the workplace is both more pervasive and worse than you might think:If only the business environment matched its natural beauty... (Image by Iris Papillon, via Unsplash, license.)Here's the reason, which a lot of people aren't aware of: If an employer lets employees work from a different state, it creates what's called nexus in the new state, and it may be required to pay taxes, set up workers'-comp insurance (which isn't cheap), and even charge customers sales tax in that state. Those can be really significant expenses. On top of that, the company will be required to follow the employment laws of that state. It can be a not-insignificant burden to monitor and comply with an additional state's employment laws, particularly if they're very different from the laws where the business is headquartered. California's laws in particular happen to be a lot more complex and employee-friendly [sic] than many other states'. For example, if your job is classified as nonexempt (the government classifies every job in the U.S. as exempt or nonexempt), you're required by law to be paid overtime when you work more than 40 hours in a week. In most states, that's the end of the requirement. But in California, you also need to be paid overtime for any hours over eight that you work in a day -- so there's a whole different tracking requirement and a whole additional pay requirement. Moreover, if you're exempt from overtime currently, you might not qualify to keep that exemption in California, which has more restrictive standards for that than federal law does. So your company could end up needing to track and pay your overtime when it doesn't currently. California also treats vacation accrual and payout differently than many other states and requires that different information be provided on your pay stub (with monetary penalties for not complying) and a whole host of other differences. [bold added]California's laws are particularly onerous, but Green elaborates that any new state presents a can of worms to an employer not already present there. (Perhaps the example of California is fortuitous for helping show just how many worms there can be...) Furthermore, as if each state presenting its own unique problems weren't enough, the federal government contributes to the problem. Green also discusses how difficult government regulations on contracting make that possibility -- which many would regard as an obvious solution. -- CAVLink to Original
  13. Yes, I am borrowing a Watergate-era acronym to describe Donald Trump's election effort, which he announced yesterday: I have stated numerous times that I believe Trump to be one of the few politicians capable of getting our deeply unpopular President reelected. But don't take my word for it... We got a taste of that the first time Trump put Biden into office -- by angering so many voters that he lost despite having history's second-highest numerical vote tally. The recent midterms should serve as a reminder, too, with Trump directly or indirectly costing the GOP several seats on top of lulling it into campaigning without a platform. In my opinion, then, Trump may imagine he has kicked off a campaign to return himself to the Presidency, but he will in effect end up working overtime to keep the Democrats in power -- be it by winning the nomination and then losing the general, or running on a loony third-party ticket in the general, splitting the vote of the Democrats' opponents. Egotistical, envious, short-sighted, and stupid, Trump is poised to do what no (other?) Democrat operative has ever come close to doing: Turn the South's Electoral College map blue. Stacy Abrams, eat your heart out. That second possibility comes to my mind after reading what should be good news for the GOP (and anyone wanting an actual alternative to the Democrats):Biden's de facto reelection campaign headquarters. (Image by The White House, via Wikimedia Commons, public Domain.Mr. Trump is banking on his supporters sharing his priority for defeating non-Trump Republicans in primaries even when it means his candidates will ultimately lose to a Democrat. In other words, the bet is that their loyalty is all to him. But that too isn't as clear as it once might have been. In its last poll before the election, NBC reported that 62% of GOP voters consider themselves more supporters of the party, against 30% who said they consider themselves more supporters of Mr. Trump. This is a huge reversal from before the 2020 election, when it was 58% to 34% in Mr. Trump's favor. [bold added]My reading of this is that, while there is a core of people who will always slavishly follow Trump, that core is no longer bolstered by a range of persuadable or relatively uninformed people who, not aware of how nuts Trump is, were willing to give him a chance in 2016. The article mentions a couple for better alternatives by name -- Virginia's Glenn Youngkin and Florida's Ron DeSantis -- and notes that they will not be easy for Trump to drag into the mud. (Along those lines, Hot Air cites a slick response by DeSantis to a direct question about Trump's unprovoked and desperate recent attempt to nickname him.) If Trump faces real opposition, in the form of a low number of solid candidates in the primaries, I think he will lose. Nevertheless, I don't see Trump not running in the general, where he seems to believe he'll be a shoo-in:... Trump said he agreed that the GOP should have done better in the midterms but blamed the outcome on people not yet perceiving the full brunt of current policies. "They don't quite feel it yet but they will very soon," he said.Oh, "they" "feel it" already. And the reason "they" didn't "kick the bastards out" is that too often, the "alternative" was a lunatic. There is a real threat that Trumpy-er areas, like the South, will end up going Democratic in a three-way race, but perhaps we can draw inspiration from Trump's loss. Voter turnout was very high -- to dump Trump. Perhaps a decent, non-crazy Republican, who can articulate a plan that appeals to normal Americans, can do well enough among independents, the non-Trump majority of his party, and disenchanted Democrats to win such a race. Trump and perhaps economic misery will inspire high turnout: Biden isn't "the" alternative for many of these voters -- I am one of "them" -- any more than Trump is. -- CAVLink to Original
  14. tl;dr: No, Iran's "parliament" didn't just vote to execute anyone: That's because they didn't have to as all the protesters face death sentences anyway. Any "fact check" failing to mention this amounts to covering for Iran's illegitimate rulers. *** Yesterday evening, a story to the effect that the Iranian parliament had voted overwhelmingly to execute 15,000 Iranian protesters caught fire. I myself retweeted it. Iran, the youth had become more and more daring & violent towards the Mullahs as the protests continues Watch to the end. pic.twitter.com/WNj1mdmO9t — Adam Albilya (@AdamAlbilya) November 1, 2022 Whereas until this happened, it was difficult to find much in legacy media outlets about the protests, now it is easy, with "fact checkers" offering a full-throated debunking of the story. Take MSNBC:Celebrities such as Peter Frampton took to Twitter and shared images which read - Iran sentences 15,000 protestors to death as a 'hard lesson' for all rebels. "Why isn’t this the lead story worldwide??? It would be a crime against humanity!!!Please add any superlative you can!!!" said Frampton. A quick fact check showed that the claims are based on 'unsubstantiated' images and media reports, some of which said that Iran has issued mass execution for over 15,000 Protestors. Iranian state news agency IRNA reported that only one protestor has been sentenced to death so far by Tehran. "A Revolutionary Court in Tehran found that the defendant, who was not named, had set fire to a government facility and was guilty of "enmity against God", state agency reported. According to the BBC, which cited a Norway-based Iran human rights group, 20 people are facing charges 'punishable by death' in Iran. [bold added]Another report elaborates on why the one was sentenced to death: "'waging war against God' and 'corruption on Earth.'" It also notes that all the imprisoned protesters do in fact face death, and obiter dictum explains the alleged vote tally in favor of execution:"All the detainees who were arrested during the protests are in danger of being sentenced to death by Iranian judicial system," the [Hengaw Organisation for Human Rights] said. They referenced an apparent letter put out by 227 Iranian parliamentarians last week that called on the judiciary to carry out death sentences against those arrested during the protests.So, no: The 227 -- some of whom disavowed the letter -- did not, in fact just vote to execute anyone. But they are hardly innocent: They don't have to, because Iran, being a theocracy, punishes crimes against its imaginary ruler with death. I stand corrected of a factual error, but I will have been glad of my error if it helps draw attention to the fact that thousands of Iranians do in fact face death in their quest for freedom. I salute their courage and I wish them well. -- CAVLink to Original
  15. If the Republicans have any sense -- a huge if, if rumors about them seriously considering Donald Trump for Speaker of the House are true -- they will quit running in elections on the premise that the elections are "rigged." In an election many mainstream commentators on both sides are having difficulty interpreting, one consistently good result has emerged:Image by Tom Radetzki, via Unsplash, license.Voters in the six major battlegrounds where Donald Trump tried to reverse his defeat in 2020 rejected election-denying candidates seeking to control their states’ election systems this year, a resounding signal that Americans have grown weary of the former president’s unfounded claims of widespread fraud. Candidates for secretary of state in Michigan, Arizona and Nevada who had echoed Trump’s false accusations lost their contests on Tuesday, with the latter race called Saturday night. A fourth candidate never made it out of his May primary in Georgia. In Pennsylvania, one of the nation’s most prominent election deniers lost his bid for governor, a job that would have given him the power to appoint the secretary of state. And in Wisconsin, an election-denying contender’s loss in the governor’s race effectively blocked a move to put election administration under partisan control. Trump-allied Republicans mounted a concerted push this year to win a range of state and federal offices, including the once obscure office of secretary of state, which in many instances is a state’s top election official. [links omitted, bold added]Excellent, if a bit misinterpreted: People who buy conspiracy theories practically never tire of them: The actual, news is that, as much as Trump panders to the type, (a) there aren't enough of them to win a general election, (b) normal people who don't want such people in office will show up to keep them out, or (c) some combination of both. Most of us can breathe a big sigh of relief in the short term. In the long term, perhaps we can harbor hope that Republicans will quit screwing themselves by following Trump's lead on this manufactured issue -- and quit screwing those of us who want a serious alternative to the Democrats. Memo to All Partisan Pundits: Just because "your guy" won doesn't mean we like him or that he necessarily deserved to win. -- CAVLink to Original
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