July 31, 2016

Review Corner

And you know, and I know, do we not, dear children, that he must always choose this last, and the leaden casket, for wisdom in all tales tells us this, and the last sister is always the true choice, is she not? But let us have a moment's true sorrow for the silver blisses the Childe would have preferred, and the sunlit flowery earth which is my own secret preference, and then let us decorously follow as we must, as he takes up the soft hand of the third, as his fate and the will of his father decree, and says, half-musing, "I will come with you."
I lack the erudition to review Possession by A. S. Byatt. In proof, I offer: a) that I had to look up on Google® whether the poet Randolph Ash was fictitious, he is; and b) when I asked a knowledgeable friend whether he was familiar with "this guy, A. S. Byatt" he suggested she was a she, and she is.

I'm taking on 0-2. In lieu, I will briefly suggest how magical this book is and tell the story of how I found it, which might be more interesting to ThreeSourcers.

Byatt creates no fewer than four complete worlds and connects them with sufficient verisimilitude that they all seem completely real.Released in 1990, the story is set in the mid 1980s and concerns a handful of academics who study the poet Randolph Henry Ash, a famous but underserved 19th Century British poet. Our plucky protagonist, Roland, finds a couple affectionate letters in an old folio which suggest that the staid imagined homelife of the author might not be exactly as advertised. His wife Helen is sweet and "a suitable marriage partner" but lacks passion and romance one suspects a poet would require.

A little sleuthing suggest the co-paramour to be Christabel LaMotte, a lesser known author, but one gaining acclaim in the burgeoning fields of gender and women's studies. Did the cloistered lesbian have an affair which had escaped everyone's attention?

Roland consults scholars who specialize in LaMotte, and one who has devoted a lifetime to Helen Ash's rather plodding diary. He must play his cards close to the vest to protect his inchoate discovery and especially not alert the two big-name scholars in his field:one his boss and the other a boorish and well-funded American.

His face in the mirror was fine and precise, his silver hair most exquisitely and severely cut, his half-glasses gold-rimmed, his mouth pursed, but pursed in American, more generous than English pursing, ready for broader vowels and less mincing sounds.

This is just one world. Any author could do that, perhaps not too many with her grace or lushness. But as the mystery gains pace (and pace it has) , the world of the objects of study is reified. Ash and LaMotte are brought to life: poets in Victorian society,his wife, her lover, their friends who do or do not sense the depth of their attraction. We discover these lives as the academics do -- and through their eyes.

As the targets are authors, their work must be quoted. And Byatt generates opuses for each. Some entire chapters are Ash's haunting and beautiful poetry, or LaMotte's deep Fairy Tales. But the true unfolding, the true joy, and the lushest creation is the correspondence between the two. As more letters are founded, and other sources corroborated, the story unfolds and is in many ways paralleled by the academics. Byatt's multiple worlds all rhyme.

Who that judges does not know-- that Lear's agony-- and the Duke of Gloucester's pain-- are true-- tho' those men never lived-- or never lived so-- you will tell me that they lived indeed in some sort-- and that he-- W.S.-- sage sorcerer prophet-- brought them again to huge Life-- so much so that no Actor-- could do his part therein, but must leave it to the studium of you and me to flesh it out.

That, gentle readers, was a terrible review of a great book. Five Stars! Go buy it. One of only fiction works that have touched me after my 45th Birthday.

To compensate, I offer a great backstory. I learned of this book in this captivating episode of Conversations with Tyler [Cowen]. Cass Sunstein, whom I associated with Nudge and the Obama Administration's general paternalism, truly won me over with his charm and obviously scary intellectual depth.

He recommends this book, saying "buy it tomorrow if you've not read it" and I did. And he compares it to FA Hayek's book on the letters of JS Mill and Harriet Taylor, which I never knew existed. I am partially through that work and wonder if it is not the template for Byatt. Rhyming, again

Seriously, watch this. Yes it's over an hour, but half of it is about Star Wars:

Review Corner Posted by John Kranz at 11:45 AM | What do you think? [3]
But johngalt thinks:

The whole thing is more than I can consume in my lunch break but I did reach the 14 minute mark and made a handful of notes. I will resume when I am able.

I sense we are going to disagree, he and I, on premises, but I will hold my tongue. Like Rand's appreciation for the work of Victor Hugo, I do find the discussion enjoyable.

Posted by: johngalt at August 1, 2016 2:39 PM
But jk thinks:

Nor have I come around on "Nudge." Sunstein calls it "Libertarian Paternalism" and Cowen chides that you "cannot put two unpopular words together and expect it will be liked."

But I'm softening on people. Knowing him only from his books and his paternalistic contribution to the Obama Administration, I had constructed a demon. He's actually a nice and very bright guy who likes Star Wars. I mean reaaaaaaly likes Star Wars -- like I like Buffy.

I should take this as a lesson.

Posted by: jk at August 1, 2016 3:19 PM
But jk thinks:

...and his book recommendations are AWESOME.

Posted by: jk at August 1, 2016 3:20 PM

July 30, 2016

Why do they say "Yes We Can?"

Because without help from others, they can't achieve their goals. Worse yet - they vilify those who can achieve their goals individually, whether it be from superior talent and ambition or merely, different goals. But when one's goal is turning history's greatest republic into a socialist democracy, that's a goal for an "us" rather than a "me."

Slate's William Saletan has drilled down on this distinction - I vs. we; Trump vs. Clinton - and finds Hillary's "togetherness" more to his liking:

The "we" approach suits Clinton's personality. It reflects what she learned from her mother's childhood - that "no one gets through life alone" - and the philosophy of good works Clinton was taught in church. It echoes the message of her book, It Takes a Village, and her collaborations with Republicans on legislation to promote adoption and health insurance. Clinton wants global progress toward controlling climate change. No leader can do that alone.

The "I" approach, conversely, captures what's wrong with Trump. He's a natural antagonist, picking fights with Sen. John McCain, Gov. John Kasich, Megyn Kelly, and others who don't please him. He uses race, ethnicity, and religion to smear people who get in his way. In Atlantic City, New Jersey, Trump ditched investors and contractors to whom he owed money. "Donald Trump has a passion," Kaine observed in his speech to the Democratic convention on Wednesday. "It's himself."

“We” is also the word that socialists use to justify all manner of abuses, principally against earners and producers. It is the way they promote their ideal – equality – at the expense of the American ideal – liberty.

But readers of Ayn Rand’s ‘Anthem’ know that nothing happens without the individual. And one individual meets other individuals. They cooperate. They trade. They fall in love. They say “I love you” not “we love the unspecified.” They enter into trade agreements. And when those agreements are no longer beneficial to them, they are free to withdraw from them and enter new ones. Who ever said NAFTA must be immortal?

I agree with Saleton that “The fundamental choice in this election is between Trump’s “I” and Hillary’s “We.” Saletan says “She’s with us.” Trump says, “I am your voice.” He chooses her, and I choose to have a leader speak for me, not tell me what’s best for me. “I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death."

But carolinmd thinks:

I believe Hillary's use of we is only the engine she uses to achieve the very real "I" of her true purposes...I doubt her sincerity for as a serious student of Saul Alinsky, the author of Rules for Radicals", who was her mentor in college, she has perfected the ways and means to use deception to her advantage. And if she is elected, she will finish what Obama has started as they have a common goal..

Posted by: carolinmd at July 31, 2016 12:18 AM

July 29, 2016

And, an All Hail Harsanyi

Because he captures what I thought. I did not see a lot of the DNC Convention, but I saw Sec. Clinton's speech. And, pacé Harsanyi, I was shocked how the GOP handed them optimism and patriotism on a silver platter.

The Democrats put on a pretty solid convention, with memorable moments from both big names and average citizens. There were cops, moms, soldiers, and business people praising traditional American institutions like they’re rock-ribbed Republicans. But think about this: At a convention where an old-school socialist was celebrated in nearly every speech, the hard-left ideas of the Progressive Movement were wrapped in Reaganesque rhetorical flourishes and sold as American idealism. Don’t get me wrong, these people can still fearmonger with the best of them on guns, global warming, etc. -- but Trump's austere worldview and pessimism gave Democrats ownership of ideas about exceptionalism, meritocracy, and national optimism..

2016 Posted by John Kranz at 8:08 PM | What do you think? [1]
But johngalt thinks:

I must have missed the parts of the DNC about exceptionalism, meritocracy, and national optimism. I heard equality, free stuff for anyone earning $125,000 or less, and "nothing to see there in the unemployment statistics... move along."

In all seriousness, have the libertarians become so personally invested in distancing themselves from Trump's "tone" and "incivility" that they - like the backers of that old-school socialist which every speech celebrated by way of marginalizing the old goat - look at Hillary Clinton and see a Republican? And in Harsanyi's case, none less than Ronald Reagan?

"Conservatives act like every stalemate is a bitter defeat and every small victory is useless." Fair point on the small victories, and stalemates are less than satisfying. But in this strawman critique, what of the body-blow defeats: Ever growing budgets; budgets so big they can't even document them in a budget document; nationalization of health care; administrative branch destruction of entire energy sectors; withering atrophy of our military readiness; speaking loudly and carrying a putting iron in international diplomacy; an ostrich-offensive against the more virulent ideological successor to the Taliban (remember them?); releasing convicted felons from prison due to "overcrowding" and then rebuking police officers for enforcing the overbearing laws of an administrative nanny state? And that's just in the last 8 years.

The patriotic Americans who have long been Taxed Enough Already are now Pissed Enough Already. Pissed enough to vote for the only candidate who even begins to seem as pissed as they are themselves. And who can blame them?

Posted by: johngalt at July 30, 2016 4:43 PM

All Hail Jonah!

Barack Obama was a blank slate for most Americans, so his status as the first black nominee and president was inextricably part of his identity. Hillary Clinton is a known quantity. She's Nixon in a pantsuit. She’s been a tedious, grating, cynical, corrupt presence in our lives for nearly three decades.-- Jonah Goldberg [subscribe]
And a man -- if I may continue teh blog tit-for-tat -- still very much not on the Trump Train.
2016 Posted by John Kranz at 7:47 PM | What do you think? [0]

Could've had this guy.

Only losers weep at elections lost. Okay, pass me my Scarlet 'L;' Gov. Rick Perry gets it.

As my Blog Brother and Randy Barnett said: maybe the Republican Party should unite around the theory of "Republicanism."

There has been...and will continue to be...an important and legitimate role for the federal government in enforcing civil rights.

Too often, we Republicans...myself included...have emphasized our message on the Tenth Amendment but not our message on the Fourteenth...an Amendment, it bears reminding, that was one of the first great contributions of the Republican Party to American life, second only to the abolition of slavery.

For too long, we Republicans have been content to lose the black vote...because we found that we could win elections without it.

But when we gave up on trying to win the support of African-Americans, we lost our moral legitimacy as the party of Lincoln...as the party of equal opportunity for all.

It is time for us to once again reclaim our heritage as the only party in our country founded on the principle of freedom for African-Americans.

One of the most important things we did in Texas while I was governor was reform our sentencing laws, so that non-violent offenders could stay out of prison.

The whole piece is joyous.

But johngalt thinks:

Not a dollar short, but certainly a day late.

Posted by: johngalt at July 29, 2016 3:21 PM
But jk thinks:

Indeed. Funny systen that tosses a successful Governor overboard for a single embarrassing-but-unharmful gaffe. I'm not even making fun of others, I did not take him very seriously this time around.

I am thinking that this is the foundation for an elevator speech on Republicanism. The need to balance the 10th and 14th Amendments are the heart and soul of liberty.

Posted by: jk at July 29, 2016 3:26 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Agreed. It is a principled defense of liberty.

And I find it comforting that its author endorsed Trump for president.

"He is not a perfect man. But what I do believe is that he loves this country and he will surround himself with capable, experienced people and he will listen to them," Perry said Thursday.

"He wasn't my first choice, wasn't my second choice, but he is the people's choice," Perry added.

Posted by: johngalt at July 29, 2016 5:04 PM

July 28, 2016

Otequay of the Ayday

For Americans to think that it is progress to move from the Founders' revolutionary achievement - a nation of free citizens, endowed with natural rights, living under laws that they themselves have made, pursuing their own vision of happiness in their own way and free to develop as fully as they can whatever talent or genius lies within them - to a regime in which individuals derive such rights as they have from a government superior to them is contemptible. How is a return to subjection an advance on freedom?

Myron Magnet in 'Why are Voters So Angry?' that nb linked yesterday.

It's the Eponomy, Stupid!

I borrow the franchise from James Taranto.

I read a clever piece on the Cato blog about the futility of "common sense gun regulation."

But that doesn't mean we need new laws to limit firearm ownership. In an interview with ProPublica, Jeffrey Swanson of Duke University School of Medicine suggested that mental health professionals "can do a lot without invoking law, by talking to people about harm reduction and locking up guns." Other programs such as voluntary buybacks may reduce the number of household firearms.

But neither suicides nor gun deaths are "epidemics" in any real sense of the term. Overstating their frequency with inflated rhetoric creates an impetus for government action to do something -- even if that something is not effective at addressing the problem it's meant to solve.

Hear, hear. The author of that piece? Jonathan Blanks.

Gun Rights Posted by John Kranz at 1:57 PM | What do you think? [0]

July 27, 2016

All Hail Shlaes!

If I believed in coercion, Amity Shlaes's "The Forgotten Man" [Review Corner] is one of the first books I'd force on the American electorate.

And they'd thank me, dammit! It's entertaining and interesting. But its main function is to contradict the nonsense everyone is taught in school about how FDR "fixed": the Great Depression.

Shlaes reprises the riff in the WSJ Ed Page today to make it relevant for the 2016 election.

Sumner, a classical liberal, believed that strong commerce helped the poor better than the best government benefit. "If you do anything for the Forgotten Man, you must secure him his earnings and savings, that is, you legislate for the security of capital and for its free employment," Sumner wrote.

"Jobbery," as Sumner called it, also wounded the forgotten man. In the 1870s and 1880s, the era of Tweed and Tammany, municipal and county governments joined private contractors to build public structures. Sumner skewered such projects: "They are carried out, not because they are needed in themselves, but because they will serve the turn of some private interest." He added that "the biggest job of all is a protective tariff," which generates forgotten men and forgotten costs to consumers.

Shlaes does not take sides in the election but rather suggests a point for clarification:
Here's an opening question for the first Trump-Clinton debate: "Who is the forgotten man?"

Great stuff.

But johngalt thinks:

To be fair I should have led with, "Amity's right. Trump is wrong." But...

Posted by: johngalt at July 28, 2016 11:33 AM
But jk thinks:

Penn Jillette had a great riff, Sec. Clinton's supporters dismiss differences by saying "oh she has to say that to get elected." Penn asks "what makes you so sure she's not lying to you?"

And yet, I am going to weasel out like her naïve sycophants.

Free trade's only home today is in the LP. I might even succumb -- it's early. But in the binary choice, I have to say that Trump campaigned on it and his followers would be devastated if he reneged. Clinton is promising hope and X chromosomes and cuter puppies -- few will keep score on trade. Both would likely fight new trade deals, but only one might re-open Nafta.

I have been particularly concerned because trade is solidly in the aegis of the executive branch. A President Trump, lacking legislative chops and allies, would need some quick wins. And he'll have a pen and phone.

Posted by: jk at July 28, 2016 2:56 PM
But dagny thinks:

Come on JK, Vote for Gary Johnson with me! I concede he is unlikely to win a single electoral college vote. But a showing in the double digits might wake a few people up! Especially since Colorado is looking very much like NOT a swing state these days.

Posted by: dagny at July 28, 2016 4:35 PM
But johngalt thinks:
But jk thinks:

@dagny, I'm considering it. To be clear, my issue is not his probability of victory. I think the existence of the LP is a bad idea and I do not wish to "feed the bears."

I want liberty lovers to push the other parties in a better direction. Perhaps that is hopeless. There is also some chatter that he might win Utah. I might move there.

Posted by: jk at July 29, 2016 10:27 AM
But jk thinks:

@jg: race to the bottom.

Posted by: jk at July 29, 2016 11:35 AM

July 26, 2016

Review Corner - City Journal

It's hard for me to judge this article (and forgive my usurpation of the TS style guide by posting an article), as it hits too close to home... and also is damn near a novella that this single-dad-with-long-commute has still failed to finish! Like so many sparkling articles in the past, Myron Magnet's offering on the growth of the administrative state (or what I've long called "the unelected government"), interestingly titled "Why are Voters so Angry?" is a tome.

He blames the birth on Wilson, the growth model on FDR, and the current expansion on the spinlessness of the USSC. It ranges articulately from Lois Lerner's transgressions (and John Koskinen's intransigence) to gritty analogies like

a new kind of government has grown up inside the old structure, like those parasites hatched in another organism that grow by eating up their host from within, until the adult creature bursts out of the host’s carcass. This transformation is not an evolution but a usurpation.

He provides no data I found that the voters' agree with his premise, and I'm too busy cheering him on to see if there are signals cited, but he has many examples

Unease over illegal immigration also has stoked today’s fear that the government no longer belongs to the people, and it’s important to understand the separate but mutually reinforcing ways that it has done so.

submitted for your persual; 4 stars.

But johngalt thinks:


Posted by: johngalt at July 27, 2016 11:40 AM
But johngalt thinks:

I shared the linked article on a FB thread asking Mr. Trump, rhetorically, what he means by "Making America Great Again?" I replied, "this:"

To become an American in those days meant little more than learning English and subscribing to a broadly shared creed of self-reliance, self-government, self-improvement, and allegiance to a tolerant nation that most people agreed was unique in the freedom and opportunity it afforded—as well as in its readiness to confer citizenship on newcomers who almost universally desired it.

The respected friend who posited the question offered praise for the author, Myron Magnet, whom I had never heard of until our blog brother's posting:

Myron Magnet is a very thoughtful man. Americans would do well to follow him and think through the many questions he raises -- even if they don't always agree with him.

So far, from what I've read, I do agree with Magnet.

Many thanks for the recommendation, nb!

Posted by: johngalt at July 27, 2016 3:03 PM

July 25, 2016

All Hail Taranto!


2016 Posted by John Kranz at 2:01 PM | What do you think? [0]

Voters Who Know Better

Who'd've feared that constituency? Mary Anastasia O'Grady suggests Donald Trump.

Beating Nafta like a piñata worked in the Republican primary. But it is likely to hurt Mr. Trump and GOP candidates further down the ticket in the general election. Mexico is, after all, the U.S.’s third-largest trading partner and second-largest export market.

Mr. Trump's trade tirades undermine his credibility with voters who know better. And that's a lot of voters. Americans from every walk of life are beneficiaries of U.S. global trade.

Indiana, the home of GOP vice-presidential candidate Gov. Mike Pence, exported some $4.8 billion of goods to Mexico in 2015, making it the state's second-largest export market. That included $1.5 billion in transportation equipment, $1.4 billion in machinery and $88 million in corn-fructose products. More than 120,000 Hoosier jobs depend on trade with Mexico.

I find his comments on China just as disturbing. But there is some ambiguity about China. They are lax with intellectual property and autocratic -- a reasonable person might ask if they are perhaps currency manipulators or perhaps wish to extend the DH to the National League.

I disagree but that is at least getting into the arcane. "Fair trade!' "Level playing field!' "Guys with funky hair dating really hot chicks!" they say, and who can argue? But Nafta gives up the game. Nafta has been a gift to the world and it is demagoguery to suggest otherwise.

2016 Posted by John Kranz at 12:59 PM | What do you think? [1]
But johngalt thinks:

"Voters who know better" like Ms. Clinton herself:

"She recognizes that NAFTA was not the success it was supposed to be."

So now since they both want to "sit down and try to redo NAFTA" it is no longer a differentiator. Except for the different priorities each might emphasize during those negotiations.

Posted by: johngalt at July 26, 2016 5:33 PM

July 23, 2016

Is Trump a "Right-Liberal?"

And if so, why don't jk and dagny admire him?


I'm so perplexed by my relative willingness to rally on the "Trump Train" and so many of my friends and relatives unwillingness, I went back to the Political Coordinates Test for possible clues.

I don't know where Donald Trump would fall on the Political Coordinates graph but I would expect it to be "right-liberal." Not as right, and perhaps more liberal, than the ThreeSourcers in that quadrant, but this is admittedly a guess. Interestingly, Trump is positioning as the "law and order candidate." That is a strongly communitarian sentiment, but I doubt that is what turns off jk or dagny, or cements his appeal to jg's dad. It does appeal to moi, jg, however, despite my scoring as a "liberal" and not a communitarian.

I'll not overreach here and attempt too many conclusions. I just thought this line of examination might help explain some things. But I need some help getting there.

UPDATE (jk): I thought I'd try taking the test as I understand Donald Trump's positions.(It might be expanded into some original reporting with snippets of speeches or policy positions to back it up.) But the first question made me laugh so hard, I'm not certain I can continue:


UPDATE II (Still jk): Pfffft!


But johngalt thinks:

Admittedly it's an oversimplification that "being in my quadrant" means I'll admire a candidate. And if Trump truly "has no guiding principles" as is often charged, can he even be constrained to one quadrant or another? Perhaps my premise is faulty - maybe Trump is a left right-communitarian liberal? But I don't think so.

Posted by: johngalt at July 23, 2016 5:59 PM
But jk thinks:

I am just as surprised at our impasse. I did a quick test with "my guesses" at Trump's answers. I was fair but not diligent. It truly would be a good piece of original reporting to do it right. Anybody want to join in?

Guesses got me 22.2% Right, 44.4% Communitarian. As Right as President George HW Bush and as Communitarian as President Reagan.

It's a superb argument. I don't find his positions inviolate, but you are correct to point out that he is fundamentally not too different and waaaaay closer than Sec. Clinton.

The convention speech was a gargantuan turn-off for me. The areas where we do agree I felt lacked depth and detail while the areas where we do not were both more forceful and more likely to have specific actions. "Build a wall," and "Renegotiate NAFTA" are clear. Reform regulation, cur taxes (without any spending cuts) were amorphous catch-phrases.

You have defended his trade and immigration restrictions as seeking both fair and legal. He highlighted Nafta and China's entrance to the WTO in his speech, to pin them on (President William Jefferson) Clinton.

WOW! This kicked off an impressive economic boom and lifted millions of Mexicans and billions of Chinese out of poverty. My gripe with (Sec. Hillary Rodham) Clinton is that she casually discards these amazing successes of her husband because they no longer have currency in the Party of Sens. Sanders and Warren.

But, if those don't make the grade on Trump's list, I daresay no trade will.

Posted by: jk at July 23, 2016 7:45 PM
But johngalt thinks:


I tried to guess Trump's answers too. I wanted to compare my version of Trump to yours. I tried to be fair too, and left some answers neutral if I didn't have a sense of what Trump would pick. If I had an inkling but wasn't certain, I gave it the mid-way response.

Where you scored Trump 22.2% Right, 44.4% Communitarian, I have him 44.4% Right, 30.6% Communitarian.

The same neighborhood, with differences only in degree. Not a Right-Liberal, as many putative conservatives have charged, but one suspects that anyone not as far right as they are would earn the label "liberal" even if he is still right of center.

I humbly request that you add these dots to your chart. I think they are informative, especially if you include the dots for Presidents Bush, Reagan, Obama and Clinton. (Noteworthy: Obama scored 67% left but only 33% liberal. A reminder that "liberal" isn't the threat conservatives should fear, leftism is.)

Posted by: johngalt at July 24, 2016 1:11 PM

"Strongman" or LEO-in-Chief?

Democrat pollster Doug Schoen on Trump's nomination speech:

I don't believe that the pundits necessarily will give this speech high marks and in my own terms, Trump did not do anything that he has not done before on the campaign trail. But what he did do is present a vision of America, a path forward, and a vision of leadership that is very, very different than what the country has had for the last eight years.

No, not a dark and authoritarian direction. A safe and secure and prosperous one. A different course than the one Hillary and her former boss have steered for nigh on eight years.

But she’s got another challenge, and one that is perhaps larger than what she expected. She needs to address the issues of law and order, safety, and security, as well as terrorism, in the way that Trump presented them given the challenges that we are all facing as Americans.

The other challenge Secretary Clinton will have is to make the case for globalism and for our role in the world.

Trump explicitly and clearly ruled it out.

He said that we need to put America first and put America before our role in the world. This goes against the credo and the values of American culture and foreign policy. But at a time when wages are stagnated, jobs are disappearing, and people are increasingly at risk and facing threats both at home and abroad, it may well be enough to turn an election that was beginning to appear issueless into the most profound, prominent, and I dare say, nation determinative contest in recent memory.

And what is really wrong with putting America's oxygen mask on first, before setting out to rescue the world from its problems?


And then there's the CNN polling on the speech.

July 22, 2016

All Hail Charles Koch!

Half the Koch Brothers have a superb guest editorial in the WSJ today, citing "dangerous signs that the U.S. is turning its back on the principles of a free and open society that fostered the nation's rise."

Despite our enormous potential for further progress, a clear majority of Americans see a darker future. Some 56% believe their children's lives will be worse off than their own, according to a January CNN poll. A Rasmussen poll released the following month found that 46% believe America's best days are behind it. Little more than a third believe better days lie ahead.

I empathize with this fear. The U.S. is already far down the path to becoming a less open and free society, and the current cultural and political atmosphere threatens to make the situation worse: Growing attacks on free speech and free association, hostile rhetoric toward immigrants, fear that global trade impoverishes rather than enriches, demands that innovators in cutting-edge industries first seek government permission.

Much worth a read in full.

Philosophy Posted by John Kranz at 1:07 PM | What do you think? [4]
But johngalt thinks:

Pollyanna here. I look at the half-full portion of the glass. It's just my nature.

"Growing attacks on free speech and free association"?

An amendment, pushed by Lyndon Johnson, many years ago, threatens religious institutions with a loss of their tax-exempt status if they openly advocate their political views.

I am going to work very hard to repeal that language and protect free speech for all Americans.

"Hostile rhetoric toward immigrants"?

I only want to admit individuals into our country who will support our values and love our people. Anyone who endorses violence, hatred or oppression is not welcome in our country and never will be.

"Fear that global trade impoverishes rather than enriches"?

I pledge to never sign any trade agreement that hurts our workers, or that diminishes our freedom and independence. Instead, I will make individual deals with individual countries.

No longer will we enter into these massive transactions, with many countries, that are thousands of pages long – and which no one from our country even reads or understands.

"Demands that innovators in cutting-edge industries first seek government permission"?

Sorry, never heard of that one.

Yes, I'm picking the most favorable messages on each subject. In fairness, I'll try to find the worst and we can see just how much "damage" they portend.

In the end, it's all just words. That's all any politician has to campaign on, with regard to the future. With regard to the past, Donald isn't a politician so he has no record. But Hillary does.

Posted by: johngalt at July 22, 2016 7:28 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Upon reflection I've decided that there are enough folks finding the worst possible interpretation of what, in the eyes of seventy-three percent of poll respondents, constitutes the "Right Direction" for our country. They don't need my help.

Posted by: johngalt at July 23, 2016 11:04 AM
But jk thinks:

I'm going to accuse my blog brother of "doth protesting too much."

This was not a Trump post. The excerpt, perhaps, conveys my shared concern with both parties' aversion to free movement of people and goods. Trumps calls for regulatory reform -- though thin on specifics -- would be a positive against "asking permission."

For all their differences, the shock to many a liberty-lover is how easily the Bush and Obama Administrations can be referred to as one 16-year period of contiguous government growth. I think Koch is decrying that and seeing no obvious relief -- or even lip service -- from teh current candidates.

Posted by: jk at July 23, 2016 1:17 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I beg your pardon. I had only read the excerpt. It gave me a different impression of the article.

The article itself reminded me of two things:

One is a new book, 'The Closing of the Liberal Mind' about political correctness and groupthink on college campuses, from which much of the Koch article could have sprung.

The other is Leonard Peikoff's 'The Ominous Parallels' which has an updated version called 'The Cause of Hitler's Germany.'

Peikoff argues that unreason and collectivism — in such forms as self-sacrifice, Oriental mysticism, racial "truth," the public good, and doing one's duty — were the ideas that led Germany to totalitarian statism.

All of these ideas are clearly represented in the established Democratic and Republican traditions. My "Two Faces of Trump" post argued that Trump is the antidote to this. He doesn't follow dogmatic "principle" rather, he trusts what "works." It is quite possible that his "seat of the pants" philosophy is more pro-liberty than any of the so-called "principled" schools of thought.

Posted by: johngalt at July 23, 2016 3:14 PM

Not Placated

To be fair, I have frequently chastised Reason magazine for "doth protesting too much" at Republican nominees. I feel liberty would have been better served had Gov. Romney or even Sen. McCain beaten our current president. I don't expect them to get into line, but I've thought them too harsh.

This is a new year, baby. This is a new era. Peter Suderman nails my thoughts:

Trump's entire speech was packed with threats and power grabs, details be damned. It was a speech about how government should be made bigger and stronger and given more authority over every part of American life, and government, in most cases, simply meant Donald Trump himself. It was an argument for unlimited government under a single man, for rule by Trump's whim. He sounded less like he was running for president and more like he was campaigning to be an American despot.

Dark days. Hat-tip to his lovely bride, Megan McArdle on Facebook

2016 Posted by John Kranz at 10:30 AM | What do you think? [4]
But Keith Arnold thinks:

Autocrat. Where have I seen that word before?

Posted by: Keith Arnold at July 22, 2016 12:17 PM
But johngalt thinks:
"It was a speech about how government should be made bigger and stronger and given more authority over every part of American life, and government, in most cases, simply meant Donald Trump himself. It was an argument for unlimited government under a single man, for rule by Trump's whim.

That is the assertion by Washington D.C. film critic, Peter Suderman.

You know, Trump's campaign kickoff may be nothing more than words, but at least reference something specific from the speech when you spin it to match your personal viewpoint. Unless you can't.

Where Suderman somehow heard "bigger government" and "more authority" I simply heard, enforce the laws we already have. Personally I would add, "and get rid of the ones that don't deserve to be enforced" but I didn't help write the speech.

His general election campaign has just begun, folks. While every other politician in history is excused for "pivoting" from the primary to the general, may the businessman be allowed at least a little deference in this area too?

Posted by: johngalt at July 23, 2016 10:18 AM
But jk thinks:

I've enjoyed that film critic's work for many years.

Peter Suderman is a managing editor at Reason.com, where he writes regularly on health care, the federal budget, tech policy, and pop culture. He is also a film critic for The Washington Times and a 2010 Robert Novak Journalism Fellow.

Before joining Reason, Suderman worked as a writer and editor at National Review, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, FreedomWorks, Doublethink, and Culture11. His writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post, Newsweek.com, theAtlantic.com, the Washington Examiner, The New Atlantis, The American Conservative, the Orange County Register, and numerous other publications. He lives in Washington, D.C.

I posted it because it conveyed my own impressions of the speech -- with terrifying accuracy. Your excerpt is exactly what I heard. While they were not included in the CNN poll, the bulk of my Facebook feed felt the same.

Yeah, Reason can be out there. But I don't think they're for off this time.

Posted by: jk at July 23, 2016 1:26 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Okay then, Suderman didn't do it but can you cite the line from the speech that conveyed to you "bigger government" or "unlimited government?" The only appearance of either of those adjectives is - "It is time to show the whole world that America Is Back - bigger, and better and stronger than ever before."

This right below "I am going to work very hard to repeal that language and protect free speech for all Americans. We can accomplish these great things, and so much more - all we need to do is start believing in ourselves and in our country again."

Posted by: johngalt at July 23, 2016 6:02 PM

July 19, 2016

The two faces of Trump

I keep asking Trump detractors, "What is so bad about him that you would not do everything in your power to defeat Hillary?" The common theme is his character - rude and crude, sexist, speaks without thinking, etc.

In a column for which I otherwise have no use, Robert J. Samuelson is more specific in his criticism. And in that criticism I am prone to criticize the critic.

Trump's serious deficiencies are of character, not intellect. He is a salesman whose favorite product is himself. His moral code is defined by what works. What works to build his popularity is legitimate, even if it's untrue, tasteless, personally cruel or inconsistent with what he's said before. What doesn't work is useless, even if it involves incontrovertible truths, important policies or common courtesies.

If his moral code really is "defined by what works" then he is a realist. Meaning, he does not seek to evade reality, he embraces it. Samuelson sees this as a fault, but the stated reasons are "even if it's untrue, tasteless, personally cruel or inconsistent with what he's said before." Let's examine these individually:

Untrue - How can something work if it is untrue? I think he means lying to achieve an end (c.f. Hillary Clinton) but epistemologically speaking, "true" equates with "works" so I can only conclude that Samuelson is referring to subjective truth, i.e. partisan opinion.

Tasteless - Another subjective measure. For context I will quote from the beginning of retired General Michael T. Flynn's speech at the Convention last night: "My message is simple - WAKE UP, AMERICA!" Taste is for tea parties, not life and death struggles with mortal enemies, which is where America finds herself today on many fronts.

Personally Cruel - It is true that Carly Fiorina does not possess the same universal beauty as, say, Melania Trump. And highlighting that fact was unnecessarily, and personally, cruel. He has done this a few times, but always retreated - a sign of self-awareness that most detractors don't acknowledge. Nevertheless, 'tis true... Donald Trump has feet of clay.

Inconsistent with what he's said before - Which is a character flaw because "everyone knows" that changing one's mind is the kiss of death for a professional politician. (Marco Rubio, call your office.) Donald Trump is not a professional politician, nor an ideologue. He's a patriot. He loves his country. He says and does what he thinks will work to make his country as prosperous, as free, as respected and as safe as it has been at better times in our great nation's history. If something doesn't work the way he expects, only a fool would stick with it.

Then there are Samuelson's critiques of "what doesn't work." Yes, what doesn't work is useless. I agree. If they really were "incontrovertible truths" then they would work so, again, incontrovertible only subjectively, in the opinion of Samuelson and his fellow relativists. Important policies? Important to whom. For what. At what cost. Common courtesies? A replacement term for the now discredited self-censorship of "Political Correctness."

I submit that Trump is not a man of poor character or a populist weathervane. Instead he is an experimentalist. He tests ideas in practice and can afford to lose the investment he makes in ideas that fail. It has worked for him in business, so now he's trying it in politics. And if his approach proves to be a spectacular failure, it will be no greater defeat than that of Messr's McCain and Romney before him. In contrast to those men though, his movement of supporters believe, at least Trump will give every effort and not neuter or censor himself in the contest - in the name of "good taste."

So go ahead, Donny, swear a little. I'm with the lot who have had it up to here with the bullshit we've seen for the last 30 years. And even Samuelson admits, Trump's deficiencies are not of intellect.

2016 Rant Posted by JohnGalt at 2:54 PM | What do you think? [2]
But nanobrewer thinks:

I have to agree with Samuelson, almost to a "T." DJT's character is only acceptable compared to HRC... he's thereby still my 9th or 10th choice in the field. Oddly, I think he's ahead of Kasich, in my head, as a matter of academic trivium.

This in particular is worthy of note (and repetition):

There's no secret as to what's happening. A slowing economy is colliding with a rising demand for government benefits, driven mainly by an aging society and its impact on federal programs for the elderly. Even in 2016, Social Security and Medicare represent nearly half of non-interest federal spending. Their share will grow.

Trump doesn't appear prepared to help either the economy, nor the public debt.

I could understand Trump's .... erm, bravado, if he were more successful, but I'm not really sure he is so (aka, the rumor that he inherited $100M and turned into merely 700, which could have been done with a mixed mutual fund). So, color me cautious with this idea of him being an 'experimentalist.' Just as likely a theory is he's a spoiled brat from NYC who simply needs to be "seen" and so plays lazily and gaudily with large piles of money. At least it's mostly his money.

Still, I agree again with the column about DJT being "a patriot. He loves his country." That counts for a lot, including his small and rare sense of reflection that being a boor isn't helping his branding.

Like Sarah Palin, he's not as smart or as dumb as seems most times. All that said, I'm leaning towards voting for him.

Posted by: nanobrewer at July 21, 2016 10:22 AM
But jk thinks:

Samuelson's a man of the left. I don't think he's going to cotton to any GOP nominee.

I don't believe I have ever suggested Trump lacked intellect. He lacks foundational principle. "Experimentalism" is for the progressives -- let our dear leaders "experiment" with our lives. Hey,. maybe a 45% tariff on Chinese goods would be worth a try. Maybe if we banned all the black guns.

The uncouthness is not by itself disqualifying although it disturbs me.

Posted by: jk at July 21, 2016 6:01 PM

Larry Kudlow, Omnihawk

My impression of Mr. Kudlow has always been that he is a man of the eastern metropolises - a polite way of calling him erudite, elitist, and dismissive of "cowboy" wisdom. That's not the way his editorial reads to me today.

War Hawk-

So when Donald Trump made it clear that this, in fact, "is war," deserving of a declaration of war, he distinguished himself. No one else has done it. Not Congress. Not Obama. Certainly not Clinton.

Jobs Hawk, Prosperity Hawk and Pence Hawk-

In Indiana, which has been hard hit by manufacturing losses, job declines and shrinking wages, Governor Pence combined tax cuts with spending restraint to spur the Hoosier economy. In this important respect he would be an excellent spokesman within the industrial Rust Belt, which includes Iowa, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. These states have all suffered similarly, but they're states where polling suggests Trump could carry the day in November. Pence helps get him there.

GOP Hawk-

Contributing to GOP unity, Pence is a churchgoing evangelical family man. He believes that "the sanctity of human life is the central axiom of Western civilization." In this respect he will be an important bridge to social conservatives. And he might just soften the opposition of the Never Trump movement.

And finally, if not "Trump Hawk," most definitely Trump-Pence Hawk-

So this was a week where we learned a Trump-Pence ticket will seek to declare and wage war to destroy ISIS. We learned that the GOP ticket is pro-growth, ready for tax cuts and deregulation. And we learned that the ticket will be allied with traditional and social conservatives. With these credentials, Trump-Pence is in position to carry states in November that no Republican has won in decades.

It was also a week where Clinton's polls were like stocks looking for a bottom. Trump-Pence is a winner for the GOP.

But nanobrewer thinks:

Kudlow has his moments, this is one. Must say, that I've followed a few of his stock picks over time. Luckily, I didn't blow any cash on any of his recommendations. I'm sure some have been good, I've only spot-checked him, but color me unimpressed. Another gaudy and cheesy NY'er...

Now, if he can "unbundle" the overwrought, preening and pedantic commentariat over what can help a company, and the economy as a whole, as DJT's economic spokesperson, then we will have taken a small step forward.

Posted by: nanobrewer at July 21, 2016 10:32 AM
But jk thinks:

Kudlow stock picks? He is a buy-and-hold, ETF/index, reinvest your dividends investor, I marveled that CNBC kept him on -- his old Democrat partner, Jim Kramer, was the and the stock picker.

He's an East-coastie. The closest he has been to a firearm is watching "Gunsmoke" on television. But he worked for Reagan in the OMB and has been a tireless advocate for supply-side economics. A lot of his personal friends were in the towers on 9/11, and he has been an indefatigable hawk ever since.

I am still a fan, but I have been disappointed by a lot of people I think should know better. Kudlow is making a quixotic Senate Bid, and I suspect the only enthusiasm a Republican can find in The Nutmeg State is to throw a little red meat at the Trumpians. I don't know.

And, hey, I like Gov. Pence too. I thought that was a solid pick.

Posted by: jk at July 21, 2016 3:36 PM

July 18, 2016

Must See Tee Vee

Colorado GOP Senate nominee Darryl Glenn is scheduled to address the GOP Convention in Cleveland during prime time tonight - Monday, July 18 at 7:30 pm MDT (6:30 pm Pacific)


Here is the speech.

But jk thinks:

I must watch on broadcast, and all chose to have yapping punditry over Glenn's speech.

Posted by: jk at July 19, 2016 5:50 PM
But johngalt thinks:

I noticed that on Fox News also. I watched on CSPAN. Recorded it even. Fortunately, we have YouTube!

Posted by: johngalt at July 19, 2016 6:21 PM

The "Four-Cs" of Trump

There are the "Four Cs of Education" and the "Four Cs of Credit." Today Stephen Moore, who with Larry Kudlow and Art Laffer comprise Donald Trump's senior economic team, recited the Four C's of Trump:

HC - Hillary Clinton must be defeated

PC - Political Correctness must be destroyed

SC - The Supreme Court must have Originalist judges

TC - Tax Cuts to near Reagan levels

All well and good, I suppose, as far as it goes. Too bad the man is such a vulgar, bigoted, male-chauvinist, ignorant bully who has, at various times in his pre-political life, taken positions on issues that offend our principles. Guess our country would be better off with career-politician Hillary, who has consistently been a corrupt, statist redistributionist and foreign policy surrender monkey. Because, Principles!

2016 Posted by JohnGalt at 2:44 PM | What do you think? [3]
But jk thinks:

One can lack Principles! and still choose not to vote for Mister Trump. Because, Multi-decadal worldwide depression!

Posted by: jk at July 18, 2016 6:21 PM
But johngalt thinks:

Call me a risk-taker but I don't see the election of an experienced businessman leading to an economic depression of any sort, much less the apocalyptic portrait you paint. Talk is cheap and campaign promises famously soften when they make contact with reality. Even if NAFTA is fully repealed, you see economic calamity? How did the good-ol USA ever become an economic powerhouse before President Clinton negotiated these international trade deals?

Posted by: johngalt at July 18, 2016 6:33 PM
But johngalt thinks:

And I know you've dismissed this point once before already, but it's important enough to repeat:

Art Laffer
Larry Kudlow
Stephen Moore

He's gonna ignore all three of those guys, and somehow convince Congress to pass a bill, imposing tariffs? He wouldn't have to fire them - they'd quit.

I continue to be amazed at how carefully my free-market and liberty movement friends examine Mr. Trump, and the high standard by which they measure his pronouncements, while blindly ignoring the 800 pound pantsuit in the room.

Posted by: johngalt at July 18, 2016 6:45 PM

July 14, 2016

In Forbes!

No, not for my brilliant, "blood-on-the-streets" investment. But in Forbes none the less:

Nathan Thompson, CEO of Spectra Logic, with co-authors Bob Cone and John Kranz have published a book called "Society's Genome: Genetic Diversity's Role in Digital Preservation" that explores this concept. The authors this book is a guide to understanding greater trends in information storage and data preservation. The book details how vital it is to store our information, and the astounding statistics around society's digital data growth and utilization.

July 13, 2016

All Hail Insty!


SCOTUS Posted by John Kranz at 6:56 PM | What do you think? [0]

All Hail Taranto!

The big question is how many supporters Sanders will bring along with his ho-hum endorsement. Obviously many primary voters are loyal partisans who will support the nominee even if she was their second, third or nth choice. But Sanders, like Trump, had an outsider appeal that may not be transferrable to someone so far inside that she has a vitamin D deficiency. -- James Taranto
Posted by John Kranz at 6:16 PM | What do you think? [0]

Blood in the Streets

I made the first good financial decision of my life -- well, if you don't count the occasional purchase of a cool guitar.

As the market tumbled after Brexit, I thought of the old stock market adage "Buy when there'e blood in the streets." I had a bunch of cash that I moved into IRAs to make the deadline. I went full into equities and REITs (though old-lady ETFs of course).

They went down a little more the next day and the next, but I remained confident.

Record highs yesterday, up today.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average surged 121 points Tuesday, vaulting the 30-stock measure to its first record close since May 2015, joining the S&P 500, which notched its second record close in two days.

Like I say, I would not boast if things always went well. But I put all that Kudlow waching to use this year. Bought when there was blood in the streets.

UPDATE: It turns south, of course, as soon as I post! Clearly we'll lose a thousand off the DJIA today.

Posted by John Kranz at 10:40 AM | What do you think? [2]
But Keith Arnold thinks:

I heard that "buy when there's blood in the streets" thing too, so I called my broker and asked him what he thought I should be buying.

"Canned goods and ammo," he said, right before he hung up.

Posted by: Keith Arnold at July 13, 2016 2:44 PM
But nanobrewer thinks:

Or, if you'd bought gold and silver back in January, you'd have doubled your money. There IS blood in the streets, my droogies:

Climate change department killed off by [PM} Theresa May.

But, sadly, there's a lot of blood in Nice tonight... I'm sure the attacker shouted "allahu akbhar" to confound the president and Dems in general past the election.

Posted by: nanobrewer at July 14, 2016 11:41 PM

July 12, 2016

Headline of the . . . Eternity

"Jeb Bush blames Pope Francis for rise of Trump" -- Christian Today

Hat-tip: James Taranto

Posted by John Kranz at 7:09 PM | What do you think? [0]

July 11, 2016

Extremely Careless

A couple of lads from Alabama, whose mug-shots do little to dispel stereotypes of my Father's birthplace, were -- it seems -- extremely careless with their campfire. And this being Colorado in July:


We must someday open the topic of mens rea. Harvey Silverglate and I are quite concerned that we now commit "Three Felonies a Day" [Review Corner], not only without criminal intent, but without knowledge. Gibson guitars had no criminal intent in importing half-finished fretboards from India, yet they faced the cold steel of the Fish & Game SWAT Team (I wince every time I type that). Because they violated "The Lacy Act."

Stossel and Reason have shown numerous egregious examples. One guy goes to prison for importing lobsters in plastic instead of cardboard. Prison -- for something he had done as a business for may years. The answer is mens rea reform: no jail for some stupid law you had no idea existed.

Yet, there must be exceptions. The two lads from Alabama are in the clink. They face not only my specious ridicule, but severe charges -- especially if life is lost in the blaze. I'm not sure I agree with that. I'd offer them mens non rea leniency.

But they were "Extremely Careless." And even the bad kids in the back know where I am heading. Sec. Clinton was negligent in an area that was her job to understand. I don't know about the Alabama Arson Squad, but her malfeasance included the desire to shield or conceal public information.

Lock up the stupid campers if you must, but not if Sec. Clinton skates.

But johngalt thinks:

"Extremely careless" seems to be your characterization. More likely the authorities will find they were "grossly negligent."

Just as seriously but less political, this is one of the reasons that mountain life ain't for me. I'll take my chances with the odd tornado or hail storm.

Posted by: johngalt at July 11, 2016 11:36 PM



Dahil Sa Iyo

In honor of the greatest Mother-in-law and Father-in-law of all time. Mike Velarde, Jr. ©1938

Live at the Coffeehouse dot Com

But Boulder Refugee thinks:

The Refugee is an old sentimental sap. Love it!

If you actually speak Tagalog, then The Refugee has underestimated your talents.

Posted by: Boulder Refugee at July 14, 2016 6:51 PM
But jk thinks:

No, turn those probs down to two or three. I know a little. It has a very straightforward grammar, but I've too small a vocabulary to be useful.

Thanks for the kind words.

Posted by: jk at July 15, 2016 2:37 PM

July 10, 2016

Review Corner

Although a feeling of awe at the capability of humans is clearly justified, there is a large difference between a deep sense of admiration and the assumption that our reasoning abilities are perfect. In fact, this book is about human irrationality-- about our distance from perfection. I believe that recognizing where we depart from the ideal is an important part of the quest to truly understand ourselves, and one that promises many practical benefits. Understanding irrationality is important for our everyday actions and decisions, and for understanding how we design our environment and the choices it presents to us.
There's the book. Dan Ariely's Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions. The good, the bad, and the ugly captured in one quote.

I forget how I ended up with this book. I bought the Kindle edition on the Fourth of July. It sounds up my street. And, while I would not dissuade anyone from reading it, brace yourself for an uncharacteristically harsh Review Corner (where four stars qualifies as a "pan.")

Have to do the good before the bad and the ugly. And I enjoyed the book. Ariely has a clever style, wit, and the information is truly interesting. Born in Israel, Ariely has had an impressive academic career and is currently "the James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University." His years of research have been heavily devoted to conducting experiments. Each chapter includes descriptions of one or two experiments -- generally performed on university students at MIT, Harvard and Duke. And they are very interesting.

I've no doubt I'll be boring my companions with these experiments for years to come. This guy sold expensive truffles for a quarter and Hershey's Kisses for a penny and everyone bought the truffles. But when the Kisses were free and the Truffles 20 cents, everyone took the free one."

And since nothing had changed in relative terms, the response to the price reduction should have been exactly the same. A passing economist, twirling his cane and espousing conventional economic theory, in fact, would have said that since everything in the situation was the same, our customers should have chosen the truffles by the same margin of preference.*

Interesting, is it not? Many of them are surprising, all are enjoyable. I muffed the numbers as I will surely do telling this story at a later date.

Another "good" is a great riff on "social norms versus market norms." You don't pull out a wad of twenties to thank your Mother-in-law for Thanksgiving dinner, and you don't expect a free cappuccino at Starbucks because you're a swell guy.

If companies want to benefit from the advantages of social norms, they need to do a better job of cultivating those norms. Medical benefits, and in particular comprehensive medical coverage, are among the best ways a company can express its side of the social exchange. But what are many companies doing? They are demanding high deductibles in their insurance plans, and at the same time are reducing the scope of benefits. Simply put, they are undermining the social contract between the company and the employees and replacing it with market norms.

We balance both these norms. After this chapter, a lawsuit was threatened against our HOA (it must be a day that ends with "y"). I proposed offering a compromise to the resident to try and preserve the "social norm" relationship.

Wow, this book is interesting and you've applied it to your daily life! Must be headed for five stars, eh? Umm, no. I has substantive philosophical flaws. Based on experiments with college students at prestigious institutions, generally on trivial matters like ten cents for each correct answer or dimes' worth of candy, Ariely wants to regulate society and discount the entire field of economics.

This is especially the case with society's essentials, such as health care, medicine, water, electricity, education, and other critical resources. If you accept the premise that market forces and free markets will not always regulate the market for the best, then you may find yourself among those who believe that the government (we hope a reasonable and thoughtful government) must play a larger role in regulating some market activities, even if this limits free enterprise. Yes, a free market based on supply, demand, and no friction would be the ideal if we were truly rational. Yet when we are not rational but irrational, policies should take this important factor into account.

They took the free candy! The truffles were a better deal! It's Obamacare for them!!!!

Yes, Doctor Ariely, people can act emotionally. And nobody said all decisions are great. A Facebook friend just got food poisoning from gas station sushi. Her normally sympathetic friends are all reproaching her: "gas station sushi? Really?"

Because college students in a state of extreme sexual arousal (by far the best experiment in the book! Wow, I should share salacious detail!) do not make the most intelligent decisions, surely he has proven that we all need nannies. (Or maybe French Maids in fishnet stockin-- let it go, jk!)

The author is certain that the passing economist "twirling his cane and espousing conventional economic theory" lacks his heightened understanding, but it is Ariely who misreads utility. When he was young, he took a web quiz to see "what kind of car to buy" as he gave up his beloved motorcycle. When the page suggested a Ford Focus, he rebelled and bought a roadster to better approximate the missing freedom of his bike. The only irrationality I see is assuming that some web page is truly the Oracle of Transportation.

How are we going to save enough money?

Europeans do a lot better-- they save an average of 20 percent. Japan’s rate is 25 percent. China's is 50 percent. So what's up with America? I suppose one answer is that Americans have succumbed to rampant consumerism. Go back to a home built before we had to have everything, for instance, and check out the size of the closets. Our house in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for example, was built in 1890. It has no closets whatsoever. Houses in the 1940s had closets barely big enough to stand in. The closet of the 1970s was a bit larger, perhaps deep enough for a fondue pot, a box of eight-track tapes, and a few disco dresses. But the closet of today is a different breed.

Yes, and that indoor plumbing, telephones, and televisions.

Ariely is a nice guy, and a reasonable man. I'd be happy to know my nieces and nephews were in one of his classes (take the truffle, Janice!) But he is a stock academic. "Rational" is agreeing with the faculty lounge and the NY Times. Everybody else, well they need some direction. So's they can be rational, too.

In society, no doubt, we would all be healthier if the health police arrived in a van and took procrastinators to the ministry of cholesterol control for blood tests. This may seem extreme, but think of the other dictates that society imposes on us for our own good. We may receive tickets for jaywalking, and for having our seat belts unsecured. No one thought 20 years ago that smoking would be banned in most public buildings across America, as well as in restaurants and bars, but today it is-- with a hefty fine incurred for lighting up. And now we have the movement against trans fats. Should people be deprived of heart-clogging french fries? Sometimes we strongly support regulations that restrain our self-destructive behaviors, and at other times we have equally strong feelings about our personal freedom.

With all due respect, Sir, I have strong feelings about my personal liberty all the time. Your work is fascinating, but you are mistaken to extrapolate the behaviour of privileged college students in inconsequential matters to dictate policy to the public at large.

Two stars for you. Add if you don't go away, I will taunt you another time.

Review Corner Posted by John Kranz at 10:50 AM | What do you think? [0]

July 8, 2016

All Hail Jonah!

Super Hillary!

"There has never been any man or woman more qualified for this office than Hillary Clinton," President Obama declared this week. Take that Jefferson! Sit your mansplaining ass down, Ike ! Hillary's here.

There's a reason she wears those smocks that make her look like the United Federation of Planets' ambassador to Rigel 7: She's just light years ahead of the rest of us. -- Jonah Goldberg [subscribe]

2016 Posted by John Kranz at 7:34 PM | What do you think? [0]

July 7, 2016

Quote of the Day

Why do we stand for this?

Comey has argued that somehow there is such a legal chasm between extreme recklessness and gross negligence that the feds cannot bridge it. That is not an argument for him to make. That is for a jury to decide after a judge instructs the jury about what Comey fails to understand: There is not a dime's worth of difference between these two standards. Extreme recklessness is gross negligence. -- Andrew Napolitano

But Keith Arnold thinks:

Comey tried to make the case today that the Federal statute lacks a mens rea standard, and is therefore invalid, in his opinion. I must have missed the part after that where he said that he'd immediately be filing papers to undo the prosecution of the Kristian Saucier.

What he did - or attempted to do - is prosecutorial nullification. He disagreed with the standard of the black letter of the law, so he chose to substitute his own sensibilities in its place. If that were his consistent practice in cases that didn't involve a defendant named Clinton, it would be believable. Pathetic, but believable.

I'm guessing that his real motivation was to not commit suicide or have some amazing tragedy not befall him or his loved ones before the end of the week.

Posted by: Keith Arnold at July 7, 2016 2:08 PM
But jk thinks:

Uh huh. Vince Foster could not be reached for comment.

Posted by: jk at July 7, 2016 4:50 PM
But johngalt thinks:

ignorantia legis neminem excusat

The rationale of the doctrine is that if ignorance were an excuse, a person charged with criminal offenses or a subject of a civil lawsuit would merely claim that he or she is unaware of the law in question to avoid liability, even if that person really does know what the law in question is.

Or, compel some third party to so claim on her behalf.

It does seem that, like her husband, Hillary should have been tried and found guilty and then, perhaps, only been nominally sentenced:

In the criminal law, although ignorance may not clear a defendant of guilt, it can be a consideration in sentencing, particularly where the law is unclear or the defendant sought advice from law enforcement or regulatory officials.

And of more general philosophical interest, to me at least:

"There is a true law, right reason, agreeable to nature, known to all men, constant and eternal, which calls to duty by its precepts, deters from evil by its prohibition. This law cannot be departed from without guilt. Nor is there one law at Rome and another at Athens, one thing now and another afterward; but the same law, unchanging and eternal, binds all races of man and all times."

-Cicero, 'De republica'

But nobody studies or reads the classics any more. How many millenials do you suppose have even heard the name "Cicero?"

Posted by: johngalt at July 9, 2016 10:47 AM

July 6, 2016

Quote of the Day

Most distressing is what this episode augurs for another Clinton Administration. Mrs. Clinton deliberately sought to evade the Federal Records Act, recklessly flouted laws on handling classified information, spent a year lying about it, and will now have escaped accountability. This will confirm the Clinton family habit, learned so painfully in the 1990s, that they can get away with anything if they deny it long enough and are protected by a friendly media and political class. -- WSJ Ed Page
2016 Posted by John Kranz at 10:51 AM | What do you think? [1]
But Keith Arnold thinks:

I do believe that the motto on the Clinton family crest is "Cheat Until Caught, Then Lie."

Posted by: Keith Arnold at July 7, 2016 1:59 PM

July 5, 2016

Self demolishing Tesla

I can't find the thread where self-driving cars was discussed, but this article from a Tech pub is a very good summary of the FL fatal accident in early May while a man's Tesla was operating on Autopilot.

The comments are quite good as well (all geeks, no activists get this far).

But jk thinks:

Morbid humor being permitted in the ThreeSources Style Guide, I'll point out that you don't have to run faster than the bear -- you just have to outrun your slowest companion. Likewise, the autonomous pilot needs to be better -- I'd suggest by magnitudes -- than human drivers.

I wondered what would happen with the first fatality and this will be interesting to follow. Thanks for sharing that link, it was much more informative than most.

As an advocate of the technology, I am pleased that the occupant is the victim. Morbid again, but his is by definition a morbid topic. When one strays off the road and hits an innocent three-year -old, there will be pitchforks and a law named after the attractive youngster.

Lastly, though I crusade against Elon Musk's crony capitalism, I compartmentalize here and hope minimal blowback comes back to hit Musk and Tesla. This technology will someday save tens of thousands of lives and add $Trillions to the economy. I will not let schadenfreude get in the way.

Posted by: jk at July 6, 2016 11:06 AM

Happy July Fifth!

Propsworthiness from Helen Raleigh [Review Corner]


2016 Posted by John Kranz at 5:17 PM | What do you think? [0]

Her Reaction

When asked for a reaction about FBI Director Comey's report, Secretary Clinton said


"Kheh Hehh heeh. Heh kheh hehhn! Kyeh kheh heh heh! Heh khyeh heh.Kheh Hehh heeh. Heh kheh hehhn! Kyeh kheh heh heh! Heh khyeh heh.Kheh Hehh heeh. Heh kheh hehhn! Kyeh kheh heh heh! Heh khyeh heh.Kheh Hehh heeh. Heh kheh hehhn! Kyeh kheh heh heh! Heh khyeh heh.Kheh Hehh heeh. Heh kheh hehhn! Kyeh kheh heh heh! Heh khyeh heh.Kheh Hehh heeh. Heh kheh hehhn! Kyeh kheh heh heh! Heh khyeh heh.Kheh Hehh heeh. Heh kheh hehhn! Kyeh kheh heh heh! Heh khyeh heh"

Photo credit Associated Press c/o WSJ.

2016 Posted by John Kranz at 4:48 PM | What do you think? [0]

All Hail Taranto!


Honorable Mention:

Yesterday the Times reported that "Democrats close to Mrs. Clinton say [that if elected] she may decide to retain Ms. Lynch, the nation's first black woman to be attorney general, who took office in April 2015." Some might call that a conflict of interest, but in Clintonworld it's known as "a win-win."

2016 Posted by John Kranz at 3:33 PM | What do you think? [0]

A Sad Day for the Rule of Law


Dust off your pith helmet and read some Kipling, we're hunting RINOs!

As has been shared, I have a rather different threshold for RINOism than most of my Tea Party peers. The attacks on leadership seem tautologically incorrect. If the people elected by the people your party elected do not in any way represent "your party," then you have some other things going on.

It's fine -- commendable -- to be disappointed in leadership. I'm fine with "those buffoons don't know their asses from their elbows!" or "My grandma could Whip a vote better than those losers and she's blind and deaf!" One needn't worship them, but suggesting that the Speaker of the House and previous VP Nominee is not a Republican seems a bridge too far.

The WSJ Ed Page is somewhat establishment, but they have kept the economic, prosperitarian lamp lit in the GOP for some time. Today, they suggest that a Trump Presidency would elevate the House GOP to a position of thought leadership. And that that might not be so bad.

Donald Trump is running for President by stressing opposition to trade and immigration. That limited-we'd say crabbed--agenda means that if the presumptive GOP nominee does by some chance win in November, the proposals to watch are coming out of the Republican House majority. Mr. Trump will need their ideas to have any hope of governing.

The good news is that this other GOP agenda is the most pro-growth in years. Speaker Paul Ryan's House colleagues have rolled out proposals to reform health care and welfare, make the financial system more resilient, and revive Congressional authority against the administrative state. The overriding goal is to gain an electoral mandate to implement an agenda in 2017 to increase economic growth and lift wages from their Obama-era trough.

These ideas deserve more attention than they've received[...]

Indeed. To be fair, most of the article's props redound to Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX), but the house leadership as a group deserves better philosophical marks than it gets.

114th Congress Posted by John Kranz at 10:41 AM | What do you think? [0]

July 4, 2016

Oh my!

(From my neighborhood Facebook group:) The Internet: allowing the insufferable to connect since 1997:


July 3, 2016

Review Corner

A good question may be the last job a machine will learn to do.

A good question is what humans are for.

Kevin Kelly is not afraid of AI. To be fair, Kevin Kelly is not afraid of much. The Review Corner Style Guide dictates that all reviews begin with a quote, but I was tempted to open with my own bon mot: Kevin Kelly makes Matt Ridley look like Parson Thomas Malthus.

In his The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future, he concedes -- once and perfunctorily -- that there will be flaws and setbacks and problems with the new technology he embraces. But, contra Malthus (and quite a few moderns), he trusts humans to make it work out.

Nor does he claim to predict the future. But he does provide several rosy scenarios describing what could be in the 12 inevitable trends he describes are indeed inevitable. Adding intelligence to things will make them better. Kelly looks askance at people who sit around complaining that they missed the dot com boom. There is just as much low-hanging fruit today; for starters taxe X and add AI to it; repeat for multiple values of X.

All these miraculous inventions are waiting for that crazy, no-one-told-me-it-was-impossible visionary to start grabbing the low-hanging fruit-- the equivalent of the dot-com names of 1984. Because here is the other thing the graybeards in 2050 will tell you: Can you imagine how awesome it would have been to be an innovator in 2016? It was a wide-open frontier!

ThreeSourcers, with their love of language and of technology, will enjoy the book -- and will also enjoy his foundational riff that nouns are becoming verbs. You car (that's a noun to you kids in the back) is being replaced by Uber and autonomous sharing, riding, transporting.
Upon this relentless change all the disruptions of modernity ride. I’ve waded through the myriad technological forces erupting into the present and I’ve sorted their change into 12 verbs, such as accessing, tracking, and sharing. To be more accurate, these are not just verbs, but present participles, the grammatical form that conveys continuous action. These forces are accelerating actions.

I am bravely (quixotically?) holding on to the noun of "music collection." It started with crates of 12" LPs, moved to CD's, then mp3s and now it mostly lives in the cloud. But it seems arcane to my Spotified nieces and nephews. My nephew's new album was just released. It wasn't real to his sisters and cousins until it was available on Spotify. (Dude -- I bought it. You get a dollar from me and fractions of pennies from your sisters.)

That is one of his verbs and I do not doubt for a moment that he is right. My enjoyment of music necessitates a more active and intimate role. Blog Brother Bryan once spoke of enjoying "having ownership in a book." I dig out an old album and feel the same. But we are anachronisms.

You get a better telephone every few months because a flow of new operating systems install themselves on your smartphone, adding new features and new benefits that in the past would have required new hardware. Then, when you do get new hardware, the service maintains the familiar operating system you had, flowing your personalization onto the new device. This total sequence of perpetual upgrades is continuous. It's a dream come true for our insatiable human appetite: rivers of uninterrupted betterment.

It is technological and spectacularist in nature (those are two compliments), but he is not at all immune to philosophy, to application and meaning.
People of the Book favor solutions by laws, while People of the Screen favor technology as a solution to all problems. Truth is, we are in transition, and the clash between the cultures of books and screens occurs within us as individuals as well. If you are an educated modern person, you are conflicted by these two modes.
Will we simply abandon this vast textual foundation that underlies our current civilization? The old way of reading— not this new way— had an essential hand in creating most of what we cherish about a modern society: literacy, rational thinking, science, fairness, rule of law. Where does that all go with screening? What happens to books?

Kelly was at Wired magazine for the first boom. It was becoming obvious that there were going to be 500 TV stations. What nobody could figure out was : who will create all this content? Instead there are millions of virtual stations and no shortage of content creation. For generations who supposedly stopped reading and writing, we are writing far more than previous generations. Facebook posts, blogging, fan fiction, Wikipedia entries, &c.
We live in a golden age now. The volume of creative work in the next decade will dwarf the volume of the last 50 years. More artists, authors, and musicians are working than ever before, and they are creating significantly more books, songs, films, documentaries, photographs, artworks, operas, and albums every year. Books have never been cheaper, and more available, than today. Ditto for music, movies, games, and every kind of creative content that can be digitally copied. The volume and variety of creative works available have skyrocketed. More and more of civilization's past works-- in all languages-- are no longer hidden in rare-book rooms or locked up in archives, but are available a click away no matter where you live.

Oh to be alive in that glorious year of 2016!

Five stars -- easily five.

Review Corner Posted by John Kranz at 5:45 PM | What do you think? [0]

July 1, 2016

Trotsky? Never heard of Comrade Trotsky

The Clinton malfeasance described in Kim Strassel's column comes in waves. You just start to recover from one, and then in comes another. Most are truly evil. Yet, the difference between tke first President Clinton and the second is that #45 lies when she doesn't have to.

After her moneybags friend was removed from the International Security Advisory Board, where "Mr. Fernando had no background that would have qualified him to sit on the ISAB," she spiked his appointment, then amusingly airbrushed it away:

Meantime, we have yet more evidence of a politicized State Department flacking for Hillary’s misdeeds. It continues to stonewall demands for documents. It issued a statement after the Citizens United emails came out, defending the Fernando appointment on grounds that the ISAB's charter calls for "a balance of backgrounds and points of view"--thereby giving the Clinton campaign cover.

News organizations have also noted that Mr. Fernando is missing from the State Department website listing former ISAB members. So the department has also scrubbed the national record of actual facts. Much as it deliberately cut a portion from the video of an uncomfortable press briefing, or as the administration attempted to censor the transcript of the Orlando shooter's 911 call.

Next week, on 60 Minutes, I'm expecting "ISAB? There's no organization by that name..."

2016 Posted by John Kranz at 1:29 PM | What do you think? [0]

"Good Guys" with Guns

I post these as a bookmark as much as a sermon to the choir.

My lefty facebook friends (I don't know whether I have ever mentioned it before, but yes, some of my feed skews left) have posted several versions of memes asserting that it has NEVER happened that a civilian, carry-permit holder has stopped a shooting.

Never? I remember a couple in Colorado off the top of my head, and hear of them from time to time. Eugene Volokh publishes a better list

A while back I posted about a few examples, but since then there have been some more, so I thought I'd note them. Naturally, such examples will be rare. Even in states which allow concealed carry, there often aren't people near a shooting who have a gun on them at the time. Many mass shootings happen in supposedly "gun-free" zones (such as schools, universities, bars, or private property posted with a no-guns sign), in which gun carrying isn't allowed in many states. And there is no central database of such examples, many of which don’t hit the national media, especially if a gunman is stopped before he shoots many victims. Moreover, at least some examples are ambiguous, because it might be unclear -- as you’ll see below -- whether the shooter had been planning to kill more people when he was stopped.

I like that he is deliberately cautious. The Swift-boat phenomenon dictates that if your most outlandish claim is discredited -- all your claims are thusly falsified. His list is careful and well documented.

Gun Rights Posted by John Kranz at 12:06 PM | What do you think? [0]

Jackbooted Thugs from the CDC

A neighbor posts this on a Facebook page for the neighborhood.

As I'm relaxing on my sofa last night alone at home , my doorbell rings. As most people do, we occasionally just don't want to answer the door after a long day of work. Typically it's a salesman anyway. So it rang once, then twice..then a hard knock on my door. I look over and then see the guy peering thru my window next to my front door. He finally leaves. So out of curiosity, I go out the door and stand next to my brick wall and here him talking to my neighbor. He clearly asked them where we were tonight. I see his car parked in front of our neighbors house. Figuring then that he has probably given up. I go back in my house. A minute later he is ringing and banging on my door again.

I gave up and answered my door. He hands me this pamphlet and has a badge saying he is with the CDC and needed to ask me census questions. Ughhh...he said we were one of 10,000 families chosen to participate.

I just want to know if anyone [in this group] has had the same experience.

The questions were beyond personal and took an entire hour.

If I've had a pap smear in the last year , a mammogram. If I'm stressed. ( not normally but when I have someone like you bothering me on a normally peaceful night...lol) . If I'm straight, gay, bisexual, no preference, if I smoke , if I drink alcohol and how much. These questions went on for an hour and this was just an example of how personal they were. Ones that you may feel would be appropriate asked by your Doctor but not a stranger off the street.

If we are part of a census, can't this be done more appropriately, like a questionnaire sent out and you can choose to answer certain questions or not.

Another group member finds this page on the CDC site: "Welcome NHIS Participants" Umm yeah, right.

Several thoughts well in my head. One, they don't have the money to fight the Zika virus unless the mean ol' Republicans up their budget. Could we perhaps divert some resources from the CDC SS? Two, I hope you may have read Jonah's or Kevin Williamson's great pieces on "Rationalia." (A better blogger would have linked yesterday, but we do our best with a low budget. Kinda like the CDC...)

Rationalia suggests that we don't need deliberative legislators. His Eminence Neil deGrasse Tyson says that "Science" and data will always provide the right answer.

Professor Tyson, who may be the dumbest smart person on Twitter, yesterday wrote that what the world really needs is a new kind of virtual state -- he wants to call it "Rationalia" -- with a one-sentence constitution: "All policy shall be based on the weight of evidence."

Williamson & Goldberg (they opened for the Stones at Altamont) make trenchant philosophical cases. I'll add the step down into Brave New World required by the data collection.

But johngalt thinks:

Tom Krannawitter writes on fakebook:

You say we should give people in government vastly more power based on all we know about climate change?

Very well.
Based on all we know about human psychology, I say we shouldn't.

And I say, that includes NdGT.

Posted by: johngalt at July 2, 2016 1:02 PM

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