Tuesday, January 24, 2017

No, It's Not

Hey Hollywood, Smugness Isn't a Political Strategy is a great piece from Megan McArdle: [emphasis mine]
Ah, Hollywood awards season. It must be time for celebrities to don gorgeous clothes, have each individual hair arranged by some stylist who charges by the femtosecond, and get up on stage to advocate for some political cause - and for the rest of us to spend days arguing about what they said.

This election cycle has been unusually vicious and angry, and therefore, of course, the controversy is as well. Meryl Streep has delivered a rebuke to Donald Trump, and now social media is convulsed by debate over a blandly unobjectionable point: Trump was wrong to make fun of a disabled reporter’s handicap.

Out of self-protection, some commentators retreat to the meta-debate: Should entertainers even make political statements? Actors are chosen for pulchritude and emotional plasticity, not for their ability to grasp fine policy distinctions or complex moral reasoning, so why on earth do they presume to lecture the rest of us? And isn’t it bad for business?

Well, yes, celebrities are stupid about policy, often breathtakingly so. On the other hand, so is everyone else. You want to hear some really stupid ideas about policy? Grab a group of whip-smart financial wizards, or neurosurgeons, or nuclear physicists, and sit them down for a nice dinner to debate some policy outside their profession. You will find that they are pretty much just as stupid as anyone else, because policy is not about smart. I mean, smart helps. But policy is fundamentally about domain knowledge, and that knowledge is acquired only by spending a great deal of time thinking about a pretty small set of problems. Funnily enough, this is also how one gets good at finance, or neurosurgery, or nuclear physics.

The problem with Hollywood people making political speeches is not that their political ideas are worse than anyone else’s, or that they enjoy sharing their half-baked ideas. This is a minor and forgivable social sin, like arriving five minutes early for a party. No, the problem with Hollywood people making political speeches is that the speeches themselves are bad, at least at their presumed goal of producing political change.

Take Streep. She's right that Trump should not have made fun of a disabled reporter (1). However, she surrounded that point with an extended discussion of how mean everyone was being to actors and journalists.

This was a double mistake. First, it accepted Trump’s frame: it’s a handful of liberal elites against the rest of the country. That’s an argument he just won, so it’s unwise to try for an immediate rematch. And second, there is in this whole world no sight less rhetorically compelling than that of successful people with fun and rewarding jobs, and a decent income, complaining that they're victims of the unglamorous folks who labor at all the strenuously boring work required to make their lives nice. Even I, who have one of those jobs, am rolling my eyes and saying “Good heavens, suck it up.” The only people who don’t recoil from this sort of vacuous self-pity are those similarly situated in elite liberal institutions - but since those folks already hate Trump, you haven’t actually changed anything.

Or take these videos that celebrities have been making, first trying to persuade voters not to vote for him, then trying to persuade Electoral College members not to vote for him, and finally just giving up and issuing a sort of bleak existential scream. These things are so ham-fistedly unpersuasive that I began to suspect a secret cabal of Hollywood Trump fans, masterfully orchestrating a coup. When I realized no, they’re really serious, I thought about rounding up a group of #NeverTrump Republicans to make an outreach video for celebrities thinking about making an outreach video. This video would explain, with lots of repetition to drive the point home, that smug self-congratulation is the exact opposite of a good way to attract voters.

This is an industry whose whole job is to invent magical collages of images, words and music. How is it that when they start in on politics, they go so terribly wrong?

Because when Hollywood people make movies, they’re thinking about the audience. They know that if they want to keep making movies, they have to get butts in seats and eyeballs on screens. Every choice they make is disciplined by a single question: “Is the audience going to be moved by this?” And they use their domain knowledge to answer that question. They don’t always get it right, but they do a lot better than a random person off the street would.

When they start talking about politics, however, they’re not thinking about the audience; they’re thinking about themselves. They’re exactly as effective at reaching an audience as your average Washington staffer is with those screenplays he scratches out in his spare time.

This painful contrast between how entertainers approach their art and how they approach their political statements, is nowhere more evident than the cast of Hamilton delivering its message to Mike Pence. The right question was not, “Did they have a right to do that?” (It’s a free country, and they had purchased the right to appear on that stage.) The correct question was, "Did they move even an iota closer to their stated goal?" And the answer was, “Obviously not.”

If you didn’t already agree with them, it came off as the kind of thing that clever middle-schoolers do, technically staying within the rules while flouting basic norms of politeness. They gave Mike Pence a chance to look like a grown-up and a statesman, while they came off as juvenile. It diminished their message, rather than spreading it.

The irony is that Lin-Manuel Miranda has made an incredibly effective musical about America’s great diversity, and the challenges of political and social change. He knows better than to condescend to his audience in his art, or to berate it, or to subject it to bland cliches. Yet he couldn’t let the art stand on its own. He felt the need to do every off-putting thing he felt constrained from doing when he was disciplined by the need to actually win people over.

There's a reason that people who actually want to make political change tend to avoid doing this sort of thing in public, however much they may enjoy it with like-minded friends. (Though occasionally, to their dismay, someone else publicizes their private tirades for them.) Those folks count votes the way entertainers count box office. They know they can’t afford a citation for public smugness, because it costs them votes and gains them nothing. And if you really think that Trump is a disaster for the country -- if you really want to change hearts and minds -- then you can’t afford it either.

  1. Yes, he made fun of that man’s disability, and no I am not interested in your argument that he really didn’t. Nor do I wish to purchase your time share or invest in your multi-level marketing scheme.

A Bizarre Ideological Monstrosity

Robert Higgs at his very best!  I envy how well he can express himself in so few words.  Here's Hate Corporations and Love Governments - an Ideological Monstrosity: [emphasis mine]
Many Americans (and others) obviously fear corporations more than they fear governments. Indeed, they look to governments to “save” them from grave harm at the hands of vicious corporations and to punish corporations for their evil, destructive actions. On such a mindset a large part of modern Progressivism and other leftist ideologies rests.

R. J. Rummel’s compilations show that approximately 262 million persons were deliberately killed by “their own” governments during the twentieth century alone - many times the number of death’s in that century’s international wars. Rummel calls this death toll “democide.”

It would be an interesting exercise for someone to compile the data for “corporacide,” the number of people deliberately killed by corporations in the same period, the time during which such business organizations were, so to speak, riding highest.

Aside from the fact that corporacide would be found, I am confident, to be close to zero - after all, as a rule, killing people is bad for business - one might call attention to the fact that corporations and other, similar business firms have been responsible for generating the bulk of the wealth that has lifted most of the world’s people out of poverty during the past century or so and for making a substantial portion of the world’s population affluent.

The combination “hate corporations/love governments” has to be one of the most bizarre ideological monstrosities of the past 150 years. It seems that people in general are utterly incapable of recognizing real threats and distinguishing them from threats that are inconsequential by comparison or actually not threats at all. Ideology’s power to blind people and twist their understanding is truly astonishing.
 Yes, truly astonishing indeed.


Walter E. Williams' Universities Cave to Snowflakes: [emphasis mine]
One wonders just how far spineless college administrators will go when it comes to caving in to the demands of campus snowflakes. For those unfamiliar with the term "snowflakes," it is increasingly being used to characterize college students easily traumatized by criticism and politically incorrect phrases. They demand safe spaces and trigger warnings so as not to be upset by views that challenge their own. Snowflakes feel as though they must be protected against words, events and deeds that do not fully conform to their extremely limited, narrow-minded beliefs built on sheer delusion. This might explain their behavior in the wake of Donald Trump's trouncing of Hillary Clinton.

Generosity demands that we forgive these precious snowflakes and hope that they grow up. The real problem is with people assumed to be grown-ups - college professors and administrators who tolerate and give aid and comfort to our aberrant youth. Let's look at tiny samples of it.

To help avoid microaggressions, the University of North Carolina administration posted a notice urging staff and faculty members to avoid phrases such as "husband/boyfriend," which they claim is heteronormative, and "Christmas vacation," which "minimizes non-Christian spiritual rituals."

This winter, the Oregon State University administration will treat its students to a new class that promises to teach them about how blacks have historically resisted white supremacists. Professor Dwaine Plaza, one of three instructors for the course, said the idea was inspired by Trump's election, which he fears will take the country back to the 1960s.

The University of Maryland is hosting a series of postelection lectures on how a "commitment to white supremacy" gave Trump momentum and blaming "white America's spiritual depravity" for his rise to power. One of the topics will be "Make America White Again? The Racial Reasoning of American Nationalism."

At Pomona College, posters giving instructions on "how to be a (better) white ally" and stating that all white people are racist were put in the dorm rooms of new students.

Ned Staebler, Wayne State University's vice president for economic development, i.e., fundraising, declared that President Trump is a Nazi and his supporters are comfortable with bigotry. He said, "I'll say flatly that many of the 63 million Americans who voted for Trump did so because of his bigotry."

In response to a claim by Ben Carson - Trump's pick to be secretary of housing and urban development - that people have the right to display Confederate flags on private property, University of Pennsylvania professor Anthea Butler tweeted, "If only there was a 'coon of the year' award." Previously, Butler informed us that God is a "white racist" and Michael Brown's death in Ferguson, Missouri, was a "blood sacrifice."

Wake Forest University faculty and administration seek to make the university a sanctuary campus. Campus security will refuse to follow federal laws and will stop Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents from pursuing criminals if they come onto Wake Forest property. This is nothing less than nullification of federal law. While liberals support nullification of federal immigration law, I wonder how they would respond to cities nullifying laws enforced by the Environmental Protection Agency.

Snowflake indulgence has been fostered by the education establishment and, more recently, by federal law. One of the most popular features of Obamacare is its provision that children can remain on their parents' health care plan until they are 26 years old. That promotes prolonged adolescence, sparing the necessity for youngsters to get out on their own.

Some have criticized my lack of sympathy for snowflakes in the wake of their emotional trauma resulting from Trump's defeat of Clinton. Here's my question to you: How much sympathy would you have for those 18- to 24-year-olds who are in the military if they conducted themselves - on aircraft carriers, in nuclear submarines and in special forces - just as college snowflakes did in the wake of the Trump victory? 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Why Everyone Should Be a "Prepper"

At least once every year, a situation arises that highlights how easily the fabric of society can melt away and how necessary it is to be ready to "shelter in place".  In the Philadelphia area, snowfall can result in a run on the stores where people rush to buy "milk and eggs" (and everything else) in case they're "snowed in" for a day or so.  Newscasts will often depict physical confrontations over a dwindling quantity of bottled water, diapers, food staples, etc.  And each year I simply shake my head and think of how people would react if there was a real event in which they truly couldn't get to the store, weather-related or, for example, terrorism-related.

Here's a quick read: Empty Shelves and Madness: A Minor Winter Storm Drove People Into “Panic Buying of Food And Basics”

I believe that everyone should be a "prepper" to some degree. In fact, I recall a government recommendation somewhere that I need to find again for the purposes of this post, but experts generally believe you should be able to stay in your residence for up to five days.  "Preppers" are generally looked upon as, well, what's the word? Ah yes, "nuts".  Granted, many do deserve the derision at times for their rather apocryphal prognostications, but the concept is sound when applied to the more likely weather or terror-considered events.

Anyway, the my favorite picture from the piece is this one and I believe it's so powerful insomuch as people generally place much too much faith in government.  Remember, the first rule of government is to make sure IT survives, and then it may consider its options on helping you:

Just In From the Department of WTF!!!!

This puts the Trump nonsense into perspective: 

Erdogan Seeks Powers to Stay in Office Until 2029: Expect Perpetual State of Emergency.  Now here is a fascist if ever there was one, so all those who think of DRT as a fascist, and who exercised their right to protest, here's what a real fascist does:
Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s carefully planned move to become legal dictator of Turkey is in its final stages. In the wake of a foiled coup, Erdogan removed or imprisoned every judge not on his side, shut down all opposition newspapers, and jailed all of his political opponents.

After his hand-picked court approved the changes Erdogan wanted, all that remains is a Public Referendum which Erdogan will win simply because he gets to count the votes.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan has begun a final push to increase his power as Turkey’s president — a goal he has sought for years — after the country’s parliament agreed far-reaching constitutional changes that will now be put to referendum.

The proposed changes, which were shepherded through parliament on Friday night in alliance between Turkey’s ruling AKP and a nationalist party, would crown Mr Erdogan’s 14-year rule by boosting his formal role as president and allowing him to remain in post until 2029.

In a sign of the tension that may mark the referendum, fist fights broke out in parliament over several days, while a television blackout of the opposition speeches forced one opposing MP to bring his own cameras into parliament, only to have his microphone stolen.

Since the failed coup and the introduction of emergency powers, he has ruled the country by decree and 100,000 people accused of backing the coup have been imprisoned.

It is unclear if the president will lift the state of emergency before the poll, scheduled for an unspecified date after April 2, but some of the permanent powers he seek resemble the emergency powers he currently holds.
Expect a Permanent Emergency

Expect a permanent emergency with increasing power every step of the way to Erdogan. This is likely to continue until he is overthrown in a coup, assassinated, or until Turkey disintegrates into hyperinflation.
Turkish Lira Down 62 Percent Since September 2010


That’s not close to hyperinflation material, but hyperinflation is an increasing possibility when madmen dictators are in charge.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is in bed with Erdogan who wants visa-free access to the EU for 80 million Muslim Turks.

Are German election threats and fireworks due to Erdogan coming up?

Friday, January 20, 2017

On Obama's Last Day In Office ...

... Let's recall Top 10 Ways Obama Violated the Constitution during His Presidency.  Believe it or not, the tipping point was #1 and this came early in his administration.  The simple fact that he could rationalize his actions in any way were just mind boggling and was a portent of the future.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Glad I Moved to Jersey After All

Well, not 100% true.  I'm a Philly kid through and through, however, I'm not stupid, which I can't say for the politicians that purportedly run the City of Brotherly Love.  With the new year came the implementation of the soda tax and let's not forget, a new additional tax on gasoline (Update: this just in: Pennsylvania Turnpike tolls to increase on Sunday).  Now, along with the new year and these new taxes, the residents of Philly are surprised, alarmed and even angry at the costs they now have to pay for soda and gas.  Go figure.  Politicians had actually claimed the tax would not "have to be passed onto the consumer", but of course, someone has to pay.  Also, remember this: the soda tax is a regressive tax, that hits those that can least afford it, the hardest.  So, as a former Philadelphian, let me tell you what I did, routinely, to avoid all the bullshit taxation in Philadelphia: I went across the Ben Franklin Bridge to New Jersey to buy my alcohol (wine and liquor can only be purchased at state-run stores in PA ... well, there has been some liberalization lately with wine); I would fill up my car in Jersey while I was there, and for the most part, I would shop as much as I could outside the city of Philly in order to avoid the extra 2% sales tax.  Though I don't smoke, I know of many people that buy their smokes outside the city to avoid the extra taxation on cigarettes levied by the city.  So, if I was still there, I'd be sure to buy any sugar drinks outside the city as well.  Philadelphia is not a big city.  In addition to the short ride to NJ to the east, the northern and western suburbs such as Delaware County, Bucks County and Montgomery County is just a short ride away as well.  Granted, the gas tax could not be avoided by staying in PA, but all others can be avoided.  Let's not forget that Delaware is but a short ride south on I-95 and it has no sales tax.  When I plan to purchase anything with a significant cost, I'll likely head south. It's simple really: people respond to incentives, so it's not surprise that people will avoid taxation if at all possible.   One would think that lowering taxes would attract people to come to the city and keep those that live there buying within the city.  Anyway, if you're interested, read the latest on the soda tax implementation from Reason.com - Outrage in Philadelphia as New Soda Tax Doubles Drink Prices.  For a more local and humorous view, here's The Burning Platform's Jim Quinn, who lives in the area, read Ignorant Masses Shocked By Philly Beverage Tax Impact.  Just for the record, Jim Quinn is a regular at The Shamrock in Wildwood (see my previous post on the drinking age) ...

Update 1/13/2017:  The economic illiteracy of Philadelphia politicians is once again evident as the Philly Mayor Blames ‘Price Gouging’ for Outrage Generated by City’s New Soda Tax.  Of course, I firmly believe that politicians are very aware of economics, but count on the continued ignorance of their constituents.  It borders on the absurd to believe that anyone would think that increased costs of a product would not be passed on to the customer and yet that's exactly what the mayor wants Philadelphians to believe, i.e., the increased costs should not have been passed on and rather, they should have been "absorbed" by the manufacturer and/or the distributor.  I should refer to him from this point on as Mayor Maduro.

Here is a proud Philadelphian who is tracking just how much tax he is avoiding by shopping outside the city

Update 1/19/2017:  Nice job by the Philadelphia Inquirer here as it provides a graphic of the impact of the sugar tax.

Abigail Blanco links to the Philadelphia Inquirer piece as well in her excellent post Escaping Philly's Soda Tax.  She provides the basic Econ 101 rules as to why this regressive tax will not work as designed.

Obama's Last Parting Shot: Gutting the 4th Amendment

Judge Napolitano has all the details of Obama's parting shot against the protections of the Fourth Amendment: [emphasis mine]
On Jan. 3, outgoing Attorney General Loretta Lynch secretly signed an order directing the National Security Agency – America’s 60,000-person-strong domestic spying apparatus – to make available raw spying data to all other federal intelligence agencies, which then can pass it on to their counterparts in foreign countries and in the 50 states upon request. She did so, she claimed, for administrative convenience. Yet in doing this, she violated basic constitutional principles that were erected centuries ago to prevent just what she did.

Here is the back story.

In the aftermath of former President Richard Nixon’s abusive utilization of the FBI and CIA to spy on his domestic political opponents in the 1960s and ’70s – and after Nixon had resigned from office in the wake of all that – Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which created a secret court that was charged with being the sole authority in America that can authorize domestic spying for non-law enforcement purposes.

The standard for a FISA court authorization was that the subject of the spying needed to be a foreign person in the United States who was an agent of a foreign power. It could be a foreign janitor in a foreign embassy, a foreign spy masquerading as a diplomat, even a foreign journalist working for a media outlet owned by a foreign government.

The American spies needed a search warrant from the FISA court. Contrary to the Constitution, the search warrant was given based not on probable cause of crime but rather on probable cause of the status of the person as an agent of a foreign power. This slight change from "probable cause of crime" to "probable cause of foreign agency" began the slippery slope that brought us to Lynch’s terrible order of Jan. 3.

After the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, numerous other statutes were enacted that made spying easier and that continued to erode the right to be left alone guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment. The Patriot Act permitted FBI agents to write their own search warrants for business records (including medical, legal, postal and banking records), and amendments to FISA itself changed the wording from probable cause "of foreign agency" to probable cause of being "a foreign person" to all Americans who may "communicate with a foreign person."

As if Americans were children, Congress made those sleight-of-hand changes with no hoopla and little serious debate. Our very elected representatives – who took an oath to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution – instead perverted it.
It gets worse.

The recent USA Freedom Act permits the NSA to ask the FISA court for a search warrant for any person – named or unnamed – based on the standard of "governmental need." One FISA court-issued warrant I saw authorized the surveillance of all 115 million domestic customers of Verizon. The governmental need standard is no standard at all, as the government will always claim that what it wants, it needs.

All these statutes and unauthorized spying practices have brought us to where we were on Jan. 2 – namely, with the NSA having a standard operating procedure of capturing every keystroke on every computer and mobile device, every telephone conversation on every landline and cellphone, and all domestic electronic traffic – including medical, legal and banking records – of every person in America 24/7, without knowing of or showing any wrongdoing on the part of those spied upon.

The NSA can use data from your cellphone to learn where you are, and it can utilize your cellphone as a listening device to hear your in-person conversations, even if you have turned it off – that is, if you still have one of the older phones that can be turned off.

Notwithstanding all of the above gross violations of personal liberty and constitutional norms, the NSA traditionally kept its data – if printed, enough to fill the Library of Congress every year – to itself. So if an agency such as the FBI or the DEA or the New Jersey State Police, for example, wanted any of the data acquired by the NSA for law enforcement purposes, it needed to get a search warrant from a federal judge based on the constitutional standard of "probable cause of crime."

Until now.

Now, because of the Lynch secret order, revealed by The New York Times late last week, the NSA may share any of its data with any other intelligence agency or law enforcement agency that has an intelligence arm based on – you guessed it – the non-standard of governmental need.

So President Barack Obama, in the death throes of his time in the White House, has delivered perhaps his harshest blow to constitutional freedom by permitting his attorney general to circumvent the Fourth Amendment, thereby enabling people in law enforcement to get whatever they want about whomever they wish without a showing of probable cause of crime as the Fourth Amendment requires. That amendment expressly forbids the use of general warrants – search where you wish and seize what you find – and they had never been a lawful tool of law enforcement until Lynch’s order.

Down the slope we have come, with the destruction of liberty in the name of safety by elected and appointed government officials. At a time when the constitutionally recognized right to privacy was in its infancy, Justice Louis Brandeis warned all who love freedom about its slow demise. He wrote: "Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the Government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding." Someday we will learn why Obama did this. I hope that when we do, it is at a time when we still have personal liberty in a free society.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Fake News (All You Need to Know)

Bob Higgs' latest post, Fake News, Fake Politics, and Fake Policy, is all we need to know about the subject of "fakeness":
Fake news has been a hot topic recently. All sides of the political sound and fury surrounding the recent presidential election have leveled charges and counter-charges against their opponents in this regard. Democrats, embracing a newfound, touchingly naive faith in the CIA and the other agencies of the so-called intelligence community, have claimed that the Russians hacked the Democratic strategists’ electronic files, released the information gained thereby, and hence influenced the election in Trump’s favor, costing Clinton the victory she so amply deserved. Republicans have responded that such claims at best evince sour grapes and an attempt to shift the public’s attention from the substance of the revealed messages to the identity of the messengers who allegedly made them public. At the same time, libertarians and others have called attention to the fact that the government itself is and long has been a leading, if not the leading, propagator of fake news—sometimes called simply propaganda—in its various attempts to sway public opinion and diminish resistance to its schemes for aggrandizing its own power and enriching the crony capitalists on whom it relies for its principal financial support, especially during the electioneering season.

Fake news is as old as news itself. Political reporting in particular has always served as a tool of those who hold or seek to gain a grip on power. Respectable news sources, such as the New York Times and the Washington Post, are not and never have been strangers to the distribution of false, twisted, or selectively partial and slanted reports. Less prestigious news outlets have also played the game. Perhaps the only new development on this front recently is the use of the Internet to spread fake news quicker and farther than the old media could. The news cycle revolves constantly now, and hence news, true and false, is placed before the public on an instant, worldwide scale as never before.

A little-noticed aspect of this ongoing activity relates to the matter of “failed polices.” Government’s critics constantly harp on allegations of such failures in an attempt to sway public opinion in favor of throwing the (current) rascals out and replacing them with the critics’ preferred rascals. Revelations of “scandals,” whether personal or managerial, provide especially useful allegations in the world of fake news. Thus, for example, critics of the government’s so-called drug war(s) constantly allege that these efforts have failed to stem the use and trafficking in such forbidden fruits and therefore ought to be modified or abandoned. Such criticism, whether well founded or not, however, falls victim to the assumption that the policy has failed merely because it has not halted or even reduced drug use and trafficking. But the policy, at least at the federal level of government, has not been altered substantially or abandoned in response to such criticism, and the reason it has proved so durable is that it has decidedly not failed insofar as its principal warriors are concerned. The drug war has brought tremendous infusions of money and power into the hands of its conductors, who would be crestfallen indeed if their effort had succeeded in reducing the use and trafficking they purport to be targeting. Such success would remove the foundation that supports their hold on money and power and hence would prove personally devastating to them, however desirable it might seem to be in the abstract.

Once one has come to understand this reality, one sees immediately the parallel between fake news and fake policy making and implementation. In short, the government’s alleged purpose—winning the drug war, suppressing foreign enemies of the American people, saving the public from harmful pharmaceuticals and medical devices, you name it—is a fake, a mere public-relations or propaganda cover for the real purpose, which is to empower and enrich government officials and their pals in the private sector. Seen in this light—somewhat as Bruce Yandle has taught us with his lovely bootleggers-and-Baptists model—one realizes that a very large part of everything the government does is derived from fake politics, from false characterizations or appealing cover stories that provide plausible rationales for government policies and programs whose true goals are quite different from those it advertises to the public in its quest to put the policies in place and keep them going, preferably with ever-increasing funding and an ever-larger bureaucracy.

Where government, politics, and policy implementation are concerned, we would be wise to remember that just as in the realm of often-fake news, things are rarely what they purport to be and, indeed, they are often the exact opposite.

Best Definition of Libertarianism

Of course, when I say "libertarianism", I refer to the small "l", not the political party. I subscribe to no political party.  Here's a definition of libertarianism that I like immensely, and it comes from Laurence Vance and his post, Of Course I'm a Libertarian: [be sure to read the entire piece]

Libertarianism is the philosophy which says that people should be free from individual, societal, or government interference to live their lives any way they desire, pursue their own happiness, accumulate as much wealth as they can, assess their own risk, make their own choices, engage in commerce with anyone who is willing to reciprocate, participate in any economic activity for their profit, and spend the fruits of their labor as they see fit as long as their actions are peaceful, their associations are voluntary, their interactions are consensual, and they don’t violate the personal or property rights of others.

Libertarianism respects personal privacy, financial privacy, free thought, individual responsibility, freedom of conscience, free exchange, free markets, and private property.

Libertarianism celebrates individual liberty, personal freedom, peaceful activity, voluntary interaction, laissez faire, free enterprise, free assembly, free association, free speech, and free expression.

Must Read: The Dangers of a "Universal Basic Income"

Another idea that sounds feasible, and one that only an intellectual or politician can actually believe would work, is that of the Universal Basic Income (UBI).  Even for those that discuss the idea as an improvement on, or as the replacement for the multitude of welfare programs in place today, rest assured that it would improve nothing and above all things, it would not reduce poverty.  Remember, nothing is free and so long as government (politicians) manages the program, it will not work.  This is simply another program crafted on the idea of "good intentions", i.e., it "sounds" so right, so good and so appealing to common sense.  These are the programs that especially fail!  Remember as well, the one trait that is not so common in the halls of government is common sense.  Here's Nathan Keeble's take on The Dangers of a "Universal Basic Income":

Finland has announced that it is conducting a social policy “experiment” which deserves closer examination. Through 2017 and 2018, Finland will provide a guaranteed basic income of 560 euros to 2,000 randomly selected welfare recipients. This benefit will be subtracted from other, currently existing welfare benefits that participants may be receiving, and, crucially, the payments will continue regardless of any other income that is earned. If a participant of this program finds a job, the government will continue to pay them the 560 euros in addition to any other income.

The Finnish government hopes — and many believe — that this program will help to alleviate poverty as well as make inroads in reducing the country’s current 8.1 percent unemployment rate. This test trial is supposed to prove it, potentially opening the door for a full implementation of a universal basic income (UBI).

Why People Support a Universal Basic Income

The universal basic income is being considered as a partial or complete replacement to the current means-tested system of welfare. Under the current system, welfare recipients’ benefits taper off and eventually stop, completely, based upon how much income individuals independently earn. Naturally, this creates a disincentive to rejoin the labor force, because people fear a reduction in total income as welfare benefits are removed or if they believe the added income from a job isn’t worth the labor. Demonstrated very simply, if someone is currently receiving a total income of $1,100 through a means-tested welfare program, many will be less likely to seek a job which will result in similar income levels, as most prefer leisure to labor.

Supposedly, the UBI’s main innovation is that it manages to largely avoid this long standing failure. Since everyone would receive the established basic income regardless of other income earned, proponents believe that people would still have strong income based incentives to work. Some have gone even further, suggesting that the program will be a positive for employment because the financial cushion provided by a UBI will help people in the transition from unemployment to employment. For instance, a struggling entrepreneur or artist could, in part, rely on it while building support.

For these reasons, the UBI has gained support from the entire political spectrum, including libertarian-leaning think tanks like the Niskanen Center.

Where UBI Proponents Go Wrong

A universal basic income is not the god-sent welfare policy that it initially seems to be. It does not create incentive to work. It won’t help solve unemployment, and it will not alleviate poverty. The truth is that a UBI will exaggerate all of these factors in comparison to what would exist in a more unhampered market. There is even reason to think that it would be worse in the long run than traditional, means-tested welfare systems.

First, UBI does not eliminate the disincentives to work that are inherent in welfare programs; it simply moves them around. This program must be financed after all, and any welfare system, including the UBI, is necessarily a wealth redistribution scheme. Wealth must be forced from those who have it to those who do not. This means that at some point on the income ladder, people must go from being net receivers of benefits to being net payers of benefits.

The progressive taxation that is necessary to finance a UBI means that the more a person earns, the higher percentage of their wealth will be taken from them. The work disincentives are therefore still very much present in the tax system. They’ve simply been transferred onto different, higher income groups of people.

UBI Diminishes the Power of Consumers in Directing the Marketplace

The universal basic income shares another problem with traditional welfare systems. Far from promoting the unemployed from searching for work the market rewards, it actually subsidizes non-productive activities. The struggling entrepreneurs and artists mentioned earlier are struggling for a reason. For whatever reason, the market has deemed the goods they are providing to be insufficiently valuable. Their work simply isn’t productive according to those who would potentially consume the goods or services in question. In a functioning marketplace, producers of goods the consumers don't want would quickly have to abandon such endeavors and focus their efforts into productive areas of the economy. The universal basic income, however, allows them to continue their less-valued endeavors with the money of those who have actually produced value, which gets to the ultimate problem of all government welfare programs.

In the marketplace, wealth is earned by generating value. When someone buys a good, they’ve earned the money they are spending by having produced something else. This is not so with welfare programs like a universal basic income. Money is forcibly taken from those who have produced enough to earn it, and given to those who haven’t. This allows for people who aren’t producing wealth to continue to consume scarce goods. Eventually, all government welfare leads to the consumption of wealth, or, at the very least, a reduction in the amount of wealth that would have been accumulated otherwise. When entrepreneurs have less need to respond to the needs and desires of their customers, consumers will find themselves with fewer choices and with lower-quality choices.This means that overall welfare makes everyone poorer than they would have been in a free market.

How Finland Really Can Reduce Poverty

If Finland (or anywhere else) wishes to help alleviate poverty and unemployment, the best steps to take are in the directions of reducing the cost of living and creating conditions favorable to plentiful employment.
Charles Hugh Smith recently outlined the basics:
This may seem obvious, but the conditions required for work to be abundant and the cost of living to be low are not so obvious. For work to be abundant:
  • It must be easy to start a business.
  • It must be easy to operate the new business.
  • It must be easy to make a profit so the business can survive the first few years and,
  • It must be easy to hire employees.
All these factors require an environment of low-cost compliance with regulations, low tax rates, low costs of transactions, reasonable transport costs, reasonable cost of money (but not near-zero), reasonable availability of capital for small enterprises, local and national governments that actively seek to smooth the path of new enterprises and existing enterprises seeking to expand, and a transparent marketplace that isn't dominated by politically dominant cartels and subservient-to-cartels government agencies.
This matters because the number one cause of the high cost of living is artificial scarcity created and maintained by monopolies, cartels, and the government that serves their interests. Artificial scarcity imposed by cartels and a servile state is the primary cause of soaring costs in a variety of sectors.
In Scandinavia, as in most countries, its is becoming increasingly difficult to open and sustain businesses. In Scandinavia especially, labor unions exercise immense power over private business, pushing up costs and raising barriers to entrepreneurship and creating new businesses.

As has always been the case, it is necessary to create wealth before it is possible to redistribute it, and policies that encourage movement toward less productive types of work will fail to produce the wealth that government planners would like to spread around.

(For a discussion of the ethical case against a UBI, see David Gordon’s article, A “Libertarian” Argument for the Welfare State.)

For more, listen to one of my favorite economists who actually supports the UBI, in this latest podcast from EconTalk, as Russ Roberts interviews Mike Munger.

Quote of the Day

"Love your country, but never trust its government." - Robert A. Heinlein

Note:  As I spend quite a bit of time outside the USA, when the subject of politics comes up, I simply declare that "I love my country, but detest the state."  Most will ask for an explanation, and upon doing so, usually say something along the lines of "Wow, never really thought of it that way."  The extension of this perspective comes in the use of the pronoun "we".   In most things the government does, their "we" does not include most people in the country and in fact, it's used to justify all political actions and to stir up the worst of all possible movements: nationalism. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Quote of the Day ... On the Killer in Your Cupboard

"The minority opinion is much the same as it was forty years ago: sugar is far worse than a benign source of empty calories. It’s a toxin, albeit not a quick-acting toxin, but one that does its damage over years and decades. It may be the primary cause of diabetes, independent of its calories, and perhaps of obesity as well. If we didn’t consume sugar, by this thinking, both obesity and diabetes would be relatively rare conditions, just as lung cancer would be in the absence of cigarettes." - Gary Taubes, Unintended Consequences, Special Interests, and Our Problem with Sugar

Nutrition 101

Great starting point for a new repository on nutrition.  Be sure to check out Health 101: Health, Exercise and Medicine and Mindfulness too]

All new updates are marked as NEW (be sure to scroll):

Let's start off by debunking the myths that are killing us:

Always A Must Read:  Are some diets “mass murder”? Note: YES, especially those that promote low-fat consumption!  See other "Always A Must Read" below, on the same subject.

Always A Must Read:  The Last Anti-Fat Crusaders  And WHO are the last of these crusaders? The government.  Crony-capitalism KILLS.

All You Need To Know About Calories:

SUGAR (and Aspartame, and ...)
What You MUST Know about High-Fructose Corn Syrup & Artificial Sweeteners; Sugar:

New:  Unintended Consequences, Special Interests, and Our Problem with Sugar

Sugar Scandal - Industry-Biased Study Questions Validity of Sugar Guidelines 

This Is How Aspartame Causes Obesity

  The Case Against Sugar — New Book Reveals the Details of How the World Got Addicted to Sugar  (more from Gary Taubes!!!)

  Drafter of U.S. Dietary Goals Was Bribed by Big Sugar to Demonize Fat

 The Sugar Conspiracy

 Sugar Identified as a Top Cause of Cancer Surge

 Artificial Sweeteners Are Turning Sour

Refined Sugar: Sweet But Toxic to Your Health

 Cancer Cells Love Sugar

 Sweetened Drinks May Increase Risk of Heart Failure, Stroke, and Heart Attack

 Newly Discovered Danger of High Fructose Corn Syrup is Alarming

Sugar is to blame for obesity epidemic - not couch potato habits

Is Sugar Toxic? [answer: YES!]

 Concerning Study: High-Fructose Corn Syrup More Toxic than Sugar, Reduces Lifespan
[Note: This is just nasty shit, so keep away from it. Know this too: one of the primary reasons for the increased use of HFCS is our nation's sugar lobby which receives subsidies from the USG in order to keep production low, resulting in the US paying some of the world's highest prices for sugar.  Translation: Your government is killing you.]

Is Sugar Really Just as Addictive as Cocaine? 
[Note:  Though the piece doesn't mention HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), it should be considered the same as sugar, if not worse.  Nice infographic]

John Yudkin: The Man Who Tried to Warn us About Sugar 
[1.5hr video in the article is worth the time.  Sugar is a killer, plain and simple; followed by wheat] 

Common ingredient is worse than salt for blood pressure

5 Things That Happen if You Quit Sugar for Life

 What If You Could Prevent Alzheimer’s?   [yes ... sugar and HFCS] 

How to Lose Weight by Identifying Hidden Sugars in Your Diet  Disclosure: I firmly believe that the ONLY way to lose weight it to eliminate sugar.

8 Foods that Speed Up Ageing While Promoting Sickness:
4. Artificial sweeteners are worse than sucrose. Ignore the aspartame and diet soda trap, too. You should actually avoid all sodas, including diet soda. Aspartame is a neuron excitoxin that can excite brain cells to death, putting you in the fast lane to dementia or even brain cancer.


Fasting A Couple Days A Week Could Help You Lose Weight

New: The Complete Guide to Fasting


  The Fat Burning Brain: What Are the Cognitive Effects of Ketosis?

The ketogenic diet: high fat, high hopes

Is Constant Ketosis Necessary – Or Even Desirable?

The Keto Diet: Health Benefits Beyond Weight Loss


 Fat is GOOD for you!

 Cereal Killers Pay Off 'Experts' and Addict Kids

Fat is Good for You - Sugar Isn't

82% Fat Diet! It's Not the Fat That's Killing Us, It's the Carbs!!! 

5 Lies About Healthy Food That Are Making You Fat  [your body needs fat; plenty of it! Same with cholesterol.  Please, read the following books: Wheat Belly; Grain Brain] 

A Little Bit of Everything Else

24 Diagrams To Help You Eat Healthier

Not Eating this Green Superfood? You’re Crazy [Note: it's avocados!]

Foods and Other Lifestyle Factors That Will Shorten Your Lifespan

5 of the Hottest Healing Foods of 2014 [Note: for #3, the best is 86% cacao]

Eat chocolate to boost your memory and avocado for high cholesterol

8 True Benefits of Drinking Coffee You Didn’t Know About

15 Reasons You Should Be Drinking Lemon Water Every Morning

Top 9 Anti-aging Antioxidants  Disclosure: I take Resveratrol and Alpha-lipoic acid daily. 

This Mineral Found to Reduce ‘All Cause Mortality’ Dramatically

6 Awesome Health Benefits of Coffee  and 10 Superfoods You Can Add to Your Coffee

Eating These 3 ‘Fatty’ Foods Can Make You Thinner

8 Impressive Health Benefits of Turmeric

My Top 5 Superfoods

Our Secret Weapon: The Green Drink

Study: Eating High-Fat Dairy Lowers Type 2 Diabetes Risk

12 Signs You Need to Eat More Protein

What’s the Deal with Fiber? 

Breakfast—Not the Most Important Meal After All... 

Butter Is Back—Processed Foods Are Identified as Real Culprits in Heart Disease

10 Reasons Green Tea Is The Healthiest Drink In The World

Top 10 Destructive Nutrition Lies Ever Told

Not All Carbs Are Bad: How You Can Tell the Difference

4 Foods That Have Surprising Medicinal Benefits

Study Shows That Coconut Oil Can Help Reduce Belly Fat

10 Shocking Facts About Processed Food

Four Great Fat Rich Foods To Start Adding To Your Diet

High-Carb Diet May Increase Your Risk of Dementia

The Health Benefits of Coconut Flour • A Gluten-Free Flour Substitute

7 Foods For Teeth That Your Dentist Wants You To Eat More Often  [not so sure about #6, as any sweetener will trip insulin production to some degree. I'm still researching this!]

10 Surprising Benefits of Walnuts You May Not Know About

18 food replacement hacks worth giving a shot

7 Unexpected Ingredients You Might Eating For Lunch Today

15 Best Anti-Aging Foods You Need To Start Eating Now [Note: I'd say '14' ... be careful about #3: stay away from wheat! And, I'm not on board with the 'anti-aging' - they're just good foods]

All Salt is Not Equal

10 Amazing Benefits of Oolong Tea You Didn’t Know

Supplement Alert: Antioxidants May Protect Cancer Cells Instead Of Protecting Us From Them  [note: key word here is "may" ... more studies need to be conducted, and, the raw data and methodology for THIS study needs to be peer reviewed as well]

The Benefits of Coconut Oil

6 Things You Need To Know About Protein

How To Win An Argument With A Nutritionist

The Top Foods That Lead To Inflammation–Avoid These At All Costs

7 Super Foods That Will Make You Live Longer

Size Does Matter

Especially where political/government power is concerned.  The larger the area, the less-dense is the "representation" (look at the size of California for example).  Here's a very interesting read from Ryan McMaken that is time well spent - No Country Should Be Bigger Than This

Here's an earlier post that you may find interesting as it relates to the size of the US: Is America Too Big?

Quote of the Day

This H.L. Mencken quote comes straight from Don Boudreaux' Quotation of the Day ...: [so appropriate in today's world too]

"If you were against the New Deal and its wholesale buying of pauper votes, then you were against Christian charity.  If you were against the gross injustices and dishonesties of the Wagner Labor Act, then you were against labor.  If you were against packing the Supreme Court, then you were in favor of letting Wall Street do it.  If you are against using Dr. Quack’s cancer salve, then you are in favor of letting Uncle Julius die.  If you are against Holy Church, or Christian Science, then you are against god.  It is an old, old argument." - H. L. Mencken, Minority Report

Monday, January 16, 2017

Must Read: Health Care Is a Commodity, Not a Right

Long have I been saying that health care is a commodity.  It is simply a combination of products and services no different from any other commodity.  Of course, it's no accident that governments the world over want to control this peak of the commanding heights of a nation, because cradle to grave control, achieved through creating ignorance (the commanding height of education) and dependence (health care; pensions) upon its 'benevolence'.  The simple fact that few people can clearly articulate what is a "right" highlights the state's control via "public education".  Unfortunately, I lack the articulation (sorry, I went to Catholic school but failed on my own accord) not to mention the audience, to state this simple argument that health care is a commodity.  Finally, here is one fine article written by an equally fine writer, who does justice to the argument!  Ben Shapiro's Health Care Is a Commodity, Not A Right: [emphasis mine]
By disrupting the marketplace, government can only hurt even those it aims to help. 
On Sunday, Senator Bernie Sanders took to Twitter to deliver one of his usual messages. “People go to the doctor because they’re sick, get a diagnosis from their doctor, but they can’t afford the treatment,” he wrote. “How crazy is that!”
I responded snarkily, “I go to a fancy store to check out a piece of furniture, can’t afford it. That’s totally crazy!”
This prompted spasms of apoplexy on the left. How could I dare to compare medical care to furniture? Was I equating the value of the two? Was I suggesting that the necessity of furniture was somehow comparable to the necessity of medical care?
Of course not. That would be idiotic. I was pointing out that medical care is a commodity, and that in life, we are often faced with commodities we cannot afford. But this mere observation caused a ruckus on the left. “Necessities don’t compare to luxuries!” said one angry tweeter. “Bless characters like Ben Shapiro for demonstrating the complete soullessness of capitalist ideology,” tweeted another.
The idea here seems to be that unless you declare medical care a right rather than a commodity, you are soulless - that as Marx might put it, necessity, rather than autonomy, creates rights.
This is foolhardy, both morally and practically.
Morally, you have no right to demand medical care of me. I may recognize your necessity and offer charity; my friends and I may choose to band together and fund your medical care. But your necessity does not change the basic math: Medical care is a service and a good provided by a third party. No matter how much I need bread, I do not have a right to steal your wallet or hold up the local bakery to obtain it. Theft may end up being my least immoral choice under the circumstances, but that does not make it a moral choice, or suggest that I have not violated your rights in pursuing my own needs.
But the left believes that declaring necessities rights somehow overcomes the individual rights of others. If you are sick, you now have the right to demand that my wife, who is a doctor, care for you. Is there any limit to this right? Do you have the right to demand that the medical system provide life-saving care forever, to the tune of millions of dollars of other people’s taxpayer dollars or services? How, exactly, can there be such a right without the government’s rationing care, using compulsion to force individuals to provide it, and confiscating mass sums of wealth to pay for it?
The answer: There can’t be. Rights that derive from individual need inevitably violate individual autonomy. In response to my tweet, my colleague, New York Magazine’s Jesse Singal, wrote that “free markets are good at some things and terrible at others and it’s silly to view them as ends rather than means.” That’s untrue. Free markets are expressions of individual autonomy, and therefore ends to be pursued in themselves.
Practically, declaring medical care a right does not guarantee its provision. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said at one point that she would model new constitutions on the South African constitution, which guarantees that “everyone has the right to have access to health care services, including reproductive health care. . . . The state must take reasonable legislative and other measures, within its available resources, to achieve the progressive realization of each of these rights.” Yet the World Health Organization ranks South Africa somewhere near the bottom of the globe in terms of medical care.
What happened? Why didn’t the right self-actualize?
Because medical care is a commodity, and treating it otherwise is foolhardy. To make a commodity cheaper and better, two elements are necessary: profit incentive and freedom of labor. The government destroys both of these elements in the health-care industry. It decides medical reimbursement rates for millions of Americans, particularly poor Americans; this, in turn, creates an incentive for doctors not to take government-sponsored health insurance. It regulates how doctors deal with patients, the sorts of training doctors must undergo, and the sorts of insurance they must maintain; all of this convinces fewer Americans to become doctors. Undersupply of doctors generally and of doctors who will accept insurance specifically, along with overdemand stimulated by government-driven health-insurance coverage, leads to mass shortages. The result is an overreliance on emergency care, costs for which are distributed among government, hospitals, and insurance payers.
[Semper Ratio: note also, though not mentioned by Shapiro is that the number of people that can become doctors is limited by the AMA, which drives up costs - not to mention ruin the dreams of many who want to become physicians but could not due to the limited number of medical school slots]
So, what’s the solution for poor people? Not to declare medical care a “right,” and certainly not to dismiss reliance on the market as perverse cruelty. Markets are the solution in medical care, just as they are in virtually every other area.
Treating medical care as a commodity means temporary shortages, and it means that some people will not get everything we would wish them to have. But that’s also true of government-sponsored medical care, as the most honest advocates will admit. And whereas government-sponsored medical care requires a top-down approach that violates individual liberties, generates overdemand, and quashes supply, markets prize individual liberties, reduce demand (you generally demand less of what you must pay for), and heighten supply through profit incentive.
So, back to the furniture.
Let’s say your life depended on the following choice today: you must obtain either an affordable chair or an affordable X-ray. Which would you choose to obtain? Obviously, you’d choose the chair. That’s because there are many types of chair, produced by scores of different companies and widely distributed. You could buy a $15 folding chair or a $1,000 antique without the slightest difficulty. By contrast, to obtain an X-ray you’d have to work with your insurance company, wait for an appointment, and then haggle over price. Why? Because the medical market is far more regulated - thanks to the widespread perception that health care is a “right” - than the chair market.
Does that sound soulless? True soullessness is depriving people of the choices they require because you’re more interested in patting yourself on the back by inventing rights than by incentivizing the creation of goods and services. In health care, we could use a lot less virtue signaling and a lot less government. Or we could just read Senator Sanders’s tweets while we wait in line for a government-sponsored surgery - dying, presumably, in a decrepit chair.

The Cult of the Imperial Presidency (Outgoing Edition)

Another classic piece from National Review's Kevin Williamson, Obama Must Have His Applause - Please (Don't) Clap:
Applause was a serious business in the Soviet Union, as it is in Cuba, as it is in Venezuela, as it is in all unfree societies and at our own State of the Union address, which is modeled on the ex cathedra speeches of unfree societies. The less free you are, the more you are obliged to applaud. Joseph Stalin’s pronouncements were greeted with perfervid applause, which would continue, rapturously — no one dared stop — until Stalin himself would order its cessation.

But what to do when Stalin was not there? The mere mention of his name, even in his absence, would trigger fanatical applause, and nobody wanted to be the first to stop. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn related one famous story:

The director of the local paper factory, an independent and strong-minded man, stood with the presidium. Aware of all the falsity and all the impossibility of the situation, he still kept on applauding! Nine minutes! Ten! In anguish he watched the secretary of the District Party Committee, but the latter dared not stop. Insanity! To the last man! With make-believe enthusiasm on their faces, looking at each other with faint hope, the district leaders were just going to go on and on applauding till they fell where they stood, till they were carried out of the hall on stretchers! And even then those who were left would not falter.

Then, after eleven minutes, the director of the paper factory assumed a businesslike expression and sat down in his seat. And, oh, a miracle took place! Where had the universal, uninhibited, indescribable enthusiasm gone? To a man, everyone else stopped dead and sat down. They had been saved! The squirrel had been smart enough to jump off his revolving wheel.

That, however, was how they discovered who the independent people were. And that was how they went about eliminating them.

That same night the factory director was arrested.

Stalin is long gone, and the Soviet Union, too, having been deposited, as Ronald Reagan predicted, onto the “ash heap of history.” But the craven instinct on display in the scene Solzhenitsyn described remains. The desire to rule is complexly mixed up with the desire to be ruled, just as the most masterful among us bow the lowest and grovel the most enthusiastically when presented with a strongman-savior. There is something atavistic in us that is older than the human part — the inner chimp — that makes those who listen to its voice keenly aware of their places in the social hierarchy. Even a predator instinctively recognizes a predator higher up the food chain.

Which is not to say that National Public Radio’s Marilyn Geewax is a Stalinist, but rather that they were what she is, representatives of the same species.

Geewax, who is a senior business editor for NPR, is very interested in applause. This week, she expressed some concern that Representative Tom Price has been nominated to serve as the next secretary of health and human services.  A year ago, she noted, President Obama gave a State of the Union speech during which he called for developing a cure for cancer, and Tom Price, blackhearted reactionary and probable saboteur, “refused to applaud.” She remarked on it at the time, too. Politics may not bring out the best in people, but it does contribute to the length of their memories.

The language there is interesting: She did not write that Price “did not applaud,” “refrained from applauding,” or even “failed to applaud,” but that he refused to applaud, a formulation that converts passivity into a positive act, one from which we are to derive something of significance about his fitness for the role of secretary of health and human services.

State-run media denouncing political nonconformists for refusing to applaud the leader and his five-year plan. Oddly familiar, that.

Price knows a little bit more about the treatment of medical conditions than does the typical NPR senior business editor, and hence there are all sorts of possible explanations for his non-applause. One of them might even be that President Obama’s proposal was scientifically illiterate to the point of absurdity: Cancer is not a single disease that is going to have a single cure, and many of those who study it believe it may not even be curable in principle. Cancer is a category of loosely related maladies with very different pathologies requiring very different medical strategies, and much of the best oncological thinking at the moment is not oriented toward “curing” cancer at all but toward developing treatments that will convert various cancers from death sentences into treatable chronic conditions like diabetes.

Never mind the complex medical realities — put your hands together, you kulak swine!

President Obama must have his applause. He got plenty during his recent speech in Chicago, clearly basking in it even as he joked about his lame-duck inability to command an end to the public adulation of his semi-divine person. And he is going to get some more, too: On January 19, the day before Barack Obama’s successor is inaugurated, a group of self-abasing would-be subjects — there may end up being thousands of them — plan to gather down the street from the White House and applaud. Obama will not be there, but mere mention of his name, even in his absence, will trigger fanatical applause.

“His legacy is one of kindness and grace,” according to BejidĂ© Davis, a 29-year-old New York lawyer who organized the clap-out. That opinion is not universally held, to say the least — the consequential policy innovations of President Kindness and Grace include assassinating American citizens, a line that even Prince of Darkness Dick Cheney never crossed — but this is a question of affiliation, not a question of judgment. The people gathering to applaud for President Barack Obama as President Donald Trump waits in the wings are not really making a statement about the outgoing president. They are making a statement about themselves: “This is our tribe.”

The most important thing about a tribe is not the question of who is in it but the question of who isn’t. Entertainers, who live for applause, have taken a keen interest in the question of who will and who will not perform at the upcoming round of presidential inaugural parties.

“Please clap,” poor old Jeb Bush said, and they mocked him for it. And they’ll mock him for it as they stand out in the January cold cheering the God-Emperor Obama, First of His Name, from afar, each looking around at his friends and countrymen with narrowed, suspicious eyes, wondering who will be the first to stop. But these are different times, and the paper-factory business just isn’t what it used to be.