Mimsy Were the Borogoves

For the wisdom of the wise are the criterion of your madness.

How many legs does the ACA have?—Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017
Abraham Lincoln

“If you call a boondoggle insurance, how much insurance do you have?”

The news media keeps harping that the Republican congress has no replacement for the ACA. This is untrue, and they know it, or they should. The problem is not that there is no replacement for the ACA. Congress has already voted on several replacements which were vetoed by President Obama, and there are several more that have been proposed.

The superficial problem, such as there is one, is deciding on which replacement to use and which parts of each replacement.1

The real problem is that Republican have a strong tendency to pre-compromise. Even when they say that insurance works better and produces better medical care without the massive regulatory burden placed on it by the ACA, they still accept the premise: that they are talking about insurance. In fact, none of the people who have signed up on the exchanges or through ACA plans have insurance.2

If you can sign up after you get sick, that is not insurance.

Democrats will argue that this is being mean. This is untrue, and they know it, or they should. It’s simply the truth, it’s what insurance is: insurance is a means of insuring against some future calamity. If a calamity has already happened, it is impossible to insure against it. Anything that pretends to allow you to insure against a calamity that has already happened is not insurance, and cannot be insurance.

Anything that claims to insure past calamities is a scam. The ACA is a huge scam imposed by Democrats on the United States.

Our first Republican president once famously and apocryphally asked, “if you call a tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have?” He could as well have been talking about Obamacare. A tail is not a leg, and if you pretend it is you will experience massive failure.

Some Democrats will argue that ACA plans are health plans, and health plans are good. But they’ll quickly revert to saying Republicans want to take away people’s health insurance, because calling them health plans changes the narrative. It changes the negotiations and the nature of the compromises. There are, after all, other ways to deal with people who can’t afford health care than taking away everyone’s insurance.

Fifth Avenue Books closing—Friday, February 17th, 2017
Fifth Avenue Books

Sadly, only a few months after I wrote this review, it looks like Fifth Avenue Books is about to close its doors. Apparently, it “has been losing money for several years, most recently about $1,000 a week” and will close at the end of this month.

That’s too bad, and I worry it will affect Bluestocking Books as well: the existence of two good bookstores across the street from each other is one of the reasons I always hit this area when I visit San Diego. Apparently, according to the article, they’ve already used crowdfunding once to stay open.

I disagree with this from the article:

Used bookstores are in some ways the unwanted stepchild of the publishing industry. The only one who makes any money when a used book is sold is the seller—not the author, not the publishing house, not the printer.

The existence of a used-book market is an incentive to buy new books. Just as the existence of a used-car market is an incentive to buy new cars: because the purchaser knows they can recoup a small amount of their money later if they wish. The existence of a used-item market is very important for items that get cycled through regularly, as many do with cars, and most do with books: even those of us who have lots of books eventually run out of room and need to consolidate our library. Just knowing that I don’t have to dispose of my unused books by trashing them is a benefit.

And of course many times we’ll read a book and realize we’re never going to read it a second time. This is one of the reasons I tend to avoid ebooks: there is no easy used ebook market.

According to the store’s Facebook page, they currently have books at 80% off and there’s an “employee anti-starvation fund” you can donate to.

Beltway establishment goes full Panem on Trumps—Wednesday, February 15th, 2017
Ivanka Trump and son Theodore

According to the left, this photo of Ivanka Trump and her son is “making a mockery of women”, and so justifies the attacks on her and her family.

I have not enjoyed becoming a Trump defender. But on Tuesday nights when I choose what to write about for Wednesday, the most important issue that isn’t being (to my mind) addressed well in the establishment press is usually one that favors Trump, because the left and the press are so much in lockstep today that they’re either not thinking about the consequences of what they’re asking for, or they’re actively looking to turn Washington DC into a real-world Capitol of Panem.

So when Donald Trump chose to call out Nordstrom on Twitter for dropping his daughter’s business from their stores, and Kellyanne Conway plugged Ivanka Trump’s brand, I thought this might be a chance to change that. I don’t even agree with many of Ivanka Trump’s influence on her father: she seems to be an advocate of government interference.

But what I immediately noticed is that the establishment media’s articles don’t really talk about the ethics of Trump’s reactions to the left’s attacks on his daughter. The headlines read “ethics violation” but the articles are all about the fine points of legal landmines. Or, worse, just accusations being thrown by the establishment left, but presented as if they were non-partisan.

Ethics are often about situations. What may be unethical in one situation isn’t in response to another. Self-defense, for example, is not unethical, even though killing is. And the media is not examining what led up to these statements by Donald Trump and Kellyanne Conway defending Trump’s daughter.

If the left weren’t dead-set on making everything political and every opponent worth attacking, this would be an easier call to make, and an obvious one. If the left hadn’t been trying to make buying Ivanka Trump’s products a political decision before Trump and Conway made their statements, this would also be an obvious call to make. But they are, through an organized Grab Your Wallet campaign to attack Donald Trump through his family. From harassing his daughter during flight, to harassing stores, such as Nordstrom’s, into dropping her business’s products, the left has chosen to politicize not just the President, but the President’s family.

Atlas Shrugged II: The Strike—Tuesday, February 14th, 2017
Atlas Shrugged II: The Strike

Well, I finally got around to seeing the second part of the Atlas Shrugged trilogy last weekend. It has, in fact, overcome the few problems I noted from the first part. It was exciting, believable, and if it had any flaw it was that it was very much like a Hollywood movie. It vastly improved on the first movie, which I enjoyed, but mainly for memorable scenes (such as the train moving across the bridge) and the heart that the creators put into it.

Again, I still haven’t gotten around to reading the book (although I have read We the Living since then), so I can’t say how well it hews to the novel. But as a movie I highly recommend it.

If it has a flaw, it would be that it makes it look like the government’s actions are drastic and unprecedented; there’s no sense that some of them had already been put into place in the seventies by Nixon in collusion with a Democratic congress, and were maintained by Ford and Carter. We’ve already had wage freezes and price freezes in the United States; we know what a disaster it is—and how much the media will lie to maintain the resulting recession. While thrillers shouldn’t be history lessons, leaving that history out makes this movie more political than it really is.

Some demagogues on the left decry this movie as right-wing. But if, for example, the emphasis had been placed more on the cronyists like Dagny Taggart’s brother and less on the politicians that enable them, they’d be praising it. It’s all a matter of perspective: businessmen who use politicians are evil, and the movies that portray such evils are good; portraying politicians as complicity with the businessmen, even though the result is exactly the same and exactly as evil makes it right-wing from their perspective.

What it really is, is all too likely to happen again.

Atlas Shrugged III is already in my Amazon cart. If it’s half as good as part two, this will be a great trilogy, and I’m not going to wait to find out like I did with part two.

The Last Defense against Donald Trump?—Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

In Foreign Policy recently, economist Daron Acemoglu wrote an article subtitled:

America’s institutions weren’t designed to resist a modern strongman.

In fact, America’s institutions were designed to resist a modern strongman. The President doesn’t impeach congressional representatives. Congress impeaches the President. If Donald Trump actually acts like a “modern strongman”, even a Republican congress will vote to impeach him. But of course, that’s not what the left is complaining about. They’re complaining that Trump is acting like President Obama did.

America’s institutions weren’t just designed to resist strongmen; they were designed so that there wouldn’t be any strongmen. The left tore those institutions and barriers apart.

The President doesn’t get to legislate. Neither does anyone else in the executive branch.

Except, of course, that now they do: because that defense has been dismantled by the left, with a lot of help from the beltway class. They wanted plausible deniability when agencies did what congress authorized them to do. And they figured they’d always be in control.

The party in power doesn’t get to install their own judges to interpret legislation. Since 1806, they have needed some form of a supermajority in the Senate1.

Except, of course, that now they don’t: because that defense was dismantled by Democrats under Senator Harry Reid. They figured they’d always be in control. And they figured that even if they did lose, it would be to someone else in the beltway class.

The federal government doesn’t get to legislate people’s personal lives, from who they go to the bathroom with and what insurance they buy to how their communities educate their children. The federal government only has those specific powers granted it in the constitution. Everything else is left to the states to decide, and the people themselves if the states don’t.

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Except, of course, that now the federal government does have that power: because that defense has been dismantled by the beltway class, with a lot of help from the media calling for federalization of every problem rather than letting fifty solutions bloom.

They figured they’d always be in control.

Acemoglu complains that Trump gets to install some “4,000 high-level posts in the civil service and the judiciary, essentially shaping a bureaucracy ready to do his personal bidding.”

There is no sanctuary without walls—Wednesday, February 1st, 2017
No sanctuary without walls

I was in the dentist’s office last year, and overheard a conversation about a guy up from a South or Central American country whose house had been shot up by police for exposing corruption. He was here under an assumed name, and needed dental work, so the dentist had blocked out time for the patient under an obviously fake name. The dentist was explaining to the dental assistants why a fake name was on their calendar. The patient needed a fake name in the United States because his persecutors might also be here.

Because we have no walls to keep them out.

Without walls, we’re not just letting this person in. We’re letting in the people who want to kill him, too. If we don’t treat sanctuary seriously, we are doing people who need sanctuary a dangerous disservice. Sanctuary isn’t sanctuary if you let everyone in.

Letting in both the people escaping corruption and violence, and the people causing corruption and violence is denying sanctuary. Sanctuary cities are anything but sanctuaries when they let violent criminals walk free, especially when they’re allowed to walk free because they’re here illegally, as sanctuary cities do. Even when it means shielding illegal immigrants from drunk-driving laws.

This is the typical one-dimensional thinking of the anointed. Letting refugees in is a good, without question. But letting people in who merely say they are refugees is to let in the persecutors as well, and provide no refuge at all.

Incidentally, long before Donald Trump, I wrote that the ideal immigration policy would be to let everyone in at the doors—with a vetting process—and then we would know that everyone not coming in at the doors shouldn’t be let in.

The one policy that Trump has been riding successfully is his immigration policy. His opponents argue that we should not deny sanctuary to people escaping corruption and violence. But what they mean is that we should stop anybody from coming in. If they say they’re a refugee, or a 12-year-old, we are not supposed to question that. Even though it puts real refugees (and real 12-year-olds) at risk. It isn’t just If we don’t have borders we don’t have a country, as Trump said. If we don’t have borders we cannot provide sanctuary.

Sesame Krispies—Tuesday, January 31st, 2017
Cat in a doorway

Cat waits for krispies. His wait is sad and endless. I ate all the treats.

I was in the mood for some sesame candy, and noticed the opened box of Rice Krispies in the cupboard. This semi-sesame candy is just as easy as rice krispie candy.

I’ve also used almond extract or vanilla extract to add to the flavor of rice krispie candies, and I’d bet that just about any flavoring normally used in candies will work well.

I have no photo, because I ate them all before writing this. Nor can I find a free rice krispie candy stock photo. So here’s a picture of a cat in a doorway. That should make this recipe a viral sensation.

Corpseman resurrected: correcting Betsy DeVos—Wednesday, January 25th, 2017

When discussing correct usage in any particular language, we have prescriptivists, who say that correct language is defined by the dictionary; users must follow the dictionary. And we have descriptivists, who say that correct language is defined by its users; dictionaries must follow usage.1 Now that there’s a Republican in office again, we shall have to add a third approach: leftists, who say that correct language is defined by them; everyone else is wrong, and must be corrected by the left.

It looks, that is, like the left is once again prescribing a single language in the United States, and denigrating anyone in politics who deviates from that language. Regional pronunciations and linguistic variations will once again be evidence that the speaker or writer should be excluded from public office, as they were during the Bush administration but were not during the Obama administration.

When the left’s icons use a different dialect, it’s folksy or down-to-earth. When a George Bush or a Sarah Palin speaks in a Texan or a Northern dialect—or, now a Michigan dialect—that’s a different story. Like owning a family business, this is another one of the walls that the beltway class wants to erect to keep the beltway free from attack by those not of the establishment.

The left’s current target is Department of Education nominee Betsy DeVos. DeVos wants to reduce the administrative burden currently imposed on teachers and the lack of educational diversity currently imposed on parents, and the left will have none of it. Therefore, her tweets are going to have to be corrected:

This pedantic correction meme is truly emblematic of the left. It is stuff like this that is a big part of why Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism rings so true. There is nothing wrong with DeVos’s tweet. Even ignoring that it’s a tweet and not formal writing, the only part of it even slightly odd is the capitalization of inauguration. But as a fan of Douglas Adams, A. A. Milne, and Lewis Carroll, capitalizations for emphasis are familiar to me in great stories; and the technique is not unknown in the United States.

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