It’s Not Hacking

I really wish the media accounts would stop referring to the exploit that took place on the IRS website as “hacking”. At least according to the accounts the site wasn’t hacked. Whoever did it exploited a poorly designed security structure for illegal purposes, to commit fraud. My suspicion is that the functionality in question was inherently insecure and the culprits figured that out.


Different Sorts of Price Controls

Diction, people, diction. Steve Chapman ignores an import different between setting a minimum wage and setting a price for gasoline. The former introduces a floor; the latter a ceiling. The economic effects of those may be very different. As to whether one works and the other doesn’t or neither works, it depends on your operative definition of “work”.

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Among the Many Reasons

Speaking of language, when you say “there are four things that must happen” (for example for DAESH to “win” whatever that means) you should actually list four thing rather than just listing the same thing four different ways.

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Translation Requested

I’m afraid I need help with a translation of a phrase in Harold Meyerson’s most recent column. Here’s the phrase:

increasingly numerous Democratic mayors and city councils, are taking it upon themselves to raise wages

Does he mean that more and more Democratic mayors and city councils are raising the minimum wage in their jurisdictions (with which I agree) or that more and more mayors and city councils are dominated by Democrats (for which he presents no evidence)?

Youth wants to know.

I agree more generally that the republic is becoming less united almost by the hour. My preferred solution would be federalism and devolution but, sadly, more people seem to want imperialism.


How Should We Reform the Financing of Political Campaigns?

I don’t have quite the same hair up my nose about campaign financing that George Will does. I think that it is manifest that our present system is corrupt but I’m not sure about how that can be corrected without the cure being worse than the disease.

I’d support Bernie Sanders’s constitutional amendment if it weren’t quite so transparent an attempt to kneecap associations of individuals who imputedly contribute to causes and candidates of whom Sen. Sanders disapproves without similarly encumbering associations of individuals who contribute to causes and candidates of whom he approves.

The objective of reform should be that it should actually reduce corruption or the appearance of corruption in the system while still being fair, democratic, and egalitarian. Is such a thing possible?


What About Ted Cruz?

I don’t care for Ted Cruz any more than Dana Milbank does but for slightly different reasons. My impression of the man is that he’s very smart and very ambitious and knows how to tailor a message to a particular audience. In other words, a demagogue. An opportunist. He’s also far too hawkish for my tastes.

However, what bothers me about Mr. Milbank’s column is that he’s putting forward the view that unless you are in 100% agreement with the White House 100% of the time the only alternatives he sees is that you are either a warmonger or an isolationist (the president has been both, at least according to Mr. Milbank’s skewed definitions, as suited his fancy). With respect to Syria I think the president erred in making an idle threat. You should never make an idle threat. That’s been a prevailing bit of western wisdom for the last two millennia. Having made the threat he should have followed through with it, at least half-heartedly.

So, Mr. Milbank falls victim to the tertium non datur fallacy. Sen. Cruz could oppose retaliatory bombing of the Assad regime without contradiction by supporting a land invasion, just to name one possibility. It’s not a view with which I agree but it’s a possibility.


NIMBY in La-La Land

Union leaders who were so vocal in advocating for an increase in Los Angeles’s city minimum wage are now demanding an exemption from that ordinance for companies who have existing collective bargaining agreements:

Labor leaders, who were among the strongest supporters of the citywide minimum wage increase approved last week by the Los Angeles City Council, are advocating last-minute changes to the law that could create an exemption for companies with unionized workforces.

The push to include an exception to the mandated wage increase for companies that let their employees collectively bargain was the latest unexpected detour as the city nears approval of its landmark legislation to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020.

For much of the past eight months, labor activists have argued against special considerations for business owners, such as restaurateurs, who said they would have trouble complying with the mandated pay increase.

I’m not entirely sure what’s going on here. Protecting their turf? Have they just realized that if workers can get raises by government edict they don’t need union representation?


It Depends on What the Meaning of “Is” Is

Is the Republican Party an extremist party whereas the Democratic Party that of commonsense and moderation? Not so much says Peter Wehner in an NYT op-ed:

The Democratic Party, then, has moved steadily to the left since the Clinton presidency. In fact, since his re-election, Mr. Obama’s inner progressive has been liberated. (An exception is the administration’s conditional approval of oil drilling off the Alaskan coast, starting this summer.) Other examples are his executive action granting temporary legal status to millions of illegal immigrants, his claim that gay marriage is a constitutional right, and his veto of legislation authorizing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.

The Democratic Party is now a pre-Bill Clinton party, the result of Mr. Obama’s own ideological predilections and the coalition he has built. Liberals will argue that the Democratic Party has benefited from this movement to the left and cite the election victories of Mr. Obama as evidence of it. The nation has become more liberal, they say, and the Democratic Party has wisely moved with it.

In some respects, like gay rights, the nation is more liberal than it was two decades ago. On the other hand, it is more conservative today than it was in the mid-1990s. A recent Pew Research Center poll found that Republicans have opened substantial leads over Democrats on dealing with terrorism, foreign policy and taxes. They’re competitive on the economy, and a good deal more competitive than in the past on traditional liberal issues like immigration and health care. Self-identified conservatives significantly outnumber self-identified liberals.

This discussion might benefit from considering how Americans more broadly rather than just Americans who identify as Republicans and Americans who identify as Democrats or Americans who identify as conservatives and Americans who identify as liberals think and Gallup has been tracking that for some time. Both political parties are jettisoning their moderates in favor of their more radical members leaving moderates who number nearly the same number as Americans who consider themselves conservatives and considerably more than Americans who consider themselves liberals.

Today we have Left Bolsheviks and Right Bolsheviks in control of the major political parties, leaving moderates able to bridge their differences out in the cold.


Asking the Right Questions About DAESH

I think Kevin Williamson is asking the wrong question in his post musing over whether Americans are willing to bear the cost of defeating the Islamic State:

The candidates are incoherent and their strategies are implausible because they are seeking the support of an electorate with incoherent demands, who demand victory, if they think about victory at all, at an implausible price. Haider al-Abadi may go looking for insight in Foreign Policy, but he should re-up his subscription to Sotheby’s International Realty, too, if he does not already have a retirement chalet secured. No sane man bets his head — literally — on the assurances of Joe Biden.

The question he should be asking is one of value. What is the value of our defeating DAESH? We are not the Saud family or Israel or even the Iranians for whom the Islamic State may pose an existential threat. We are not France, Italy, or Germany who are threatened also, both by their own radicalized populations and immigrants or refugees (or, in some cases, “refugees”). IMO the risks we face may be mitigated by measures short of war.

Note, too, his implication that Americans demand victory. I think that Americans are more right about this than he; they don’t care much about what happens in the Middle East. The president was half right about that. We aren’t willing to place American “boots on the ground” to oppose forces that don’t really pose much of a threat to us.

But he was half wrong, too. Committing U. S. air power to oppose DAESH and stating that their mission was to “degrade and destroy” placed us on a slippery slope to increasing military commitment. That he will undoubtedly want to weasel out of further commitments by pointing to the Iraqis’ unwillingness and even inability to fight does not salvage our prestige and prestige is an import component of the psy-ops of deterrence.


Movies for Memorial Day

This is a bit late but here’s a viewing list of movies suitable for Memorial Day.

The Red Badge of Courage
The Big Parade
The Best Years of Our Lives
Saving Private Ryan
Memorial Day

TV usually fills up their schedules with war movies on Memorial Day but I don’t think that really gets the point.

That last picture is a little gem that’s streamable on NetFlix. Take a look at it. You’ll be glad you did.