The Score: Black Klansmen, Prediction Markets, Petition Fraud, Toll Roads, Witch Hunts
This week on The Score: We look at new movies from Spike Lee and Dinesh D’Souza. An expert on political markets makes us an offer. A Libertarian Party official comments on allegations of petition fraud. And what’s the future of transportation in Virginia? Plus Jonah Goldberg on witch hunts.
When public opinion polls fail you, where do you turn for accurate forecasts of election results? According to international political campaign consultant John Aristotle Phillips, you turn to political prediction markets. Phillips is the founder of PredictIt.org, a web site and political futures market where experts and laymen alike trade shares in political outcomes, just like investors do in the stock market.
It sounds complicated but it really isn’t. In this interview, I let John Phillips explain it himself. He also makes a special offer exclusive to listeners to The Score. (Hint: It’s like free money.)
Our movie critic, Tim Hulsey, has been busy this week. He screened both a documentary film by conservative writer Dinesh D’Souza – a convicted felon, recently pardoned by President Trump – and a narrative feature, based on a true story, by Spike Lee called BlacKkKLansman. (Yes, there is an extra K between Black and Klansman in that one-word title.) Both films, as Tim notes, include footage from the events of August 11th and 12th, 2017, in Charlottesville.
As it happens, I saw BlacKkKlansman last week and thought it was an excellent and entertaining film. Spike Lee moved the action from the late 1970s to the early part of that decade, probably because the costumes and music of 1972 evoke a different vibe than those of 1978 would do. The film loses focus in the last five minutes or so, however, but I still recommend it.
As for Dinesh D’Souza’s Death of a Nation, I don’t expect it will show up in any cinemas near me, so it’s unlikely I’ll get a chance to see it.
Ballot Access Laws
Recently, allegations arose in the Second Congressional District of Virginia that staff members from the campaign of Representative Scott Taylor, the incumbent Republican, not only collected signatures on a ballot-access petition for an independent candidate running against Taylor and his Democratic opponent, but they forged some of those signatures and included signatures of dead constituents on the petition. The allegations are unproven and under investigation, but I thought this would be a good opportunity to talk about election law with Bo Brown, the chairman of the Libertarian Party of Virginia. By necessity, minor party leaders have a better understanding of ballot-access requirements than their Republican and Democratic counterparts, and so they are less likely to cut corners or make amateurish mistakes that lead to scandal or prosecution.
In this interview, Brown also talks about the first-ever successful challenge to the State Board of Elections’ decision to disqualify a third-party candidate running for Congress in the general election.
Traffic is a constant irritation, no matter where you live. I’m sure 18th century farmers complained that the buggy up the road was going too slow. Commuting times in places like Los Angeles, Chicago, and metropolitan Washington, D.C., seem to be increasing every year.
Tracy C. Miller is a Senior Policy Research Editor at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University. Previously, he was associate professor of economics and fellow for the center for Vision and Values at Grove City College. His research interests include transportation policy, property rights, health economics, and environmental policy.
I spoke to Dr. Miller last Tuesday at his office at the Arlington-based Mercatus Center about toll roads (such as those that opened last December on I-66 inside the Beltway) and public-private partnerships.
Witch Hunts, Revisited
Open up Twitter and you’re likely to see a tweet about “witch hunts.” That tweet is likely to be from the president of the United States.
Someone who has actually done research about witch hunts is Jonah Goldberg, the prolific conservative author and commentator for National Review Online. I interviewed Goldberg about that book in the summer of 2012 in Las Vegas and believe me, if you’re talking about heat, burning at the stake has nothing on summer in Las Vegas.
From the archives, here’s Jonah Goldberg:
While conducting research for The Tyranny of Clichés: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas, Goldberg “became really fascinated with the history of the inquisitions and the witch hunts in medieval Europe.”
His book, a follow-up to the 2008 best-seller Liberal Fascism, includes a lengthy, four-part chapter on the Catholic Church, a result of what he uncovered.
Until he began looking into the topic more deeply, Goldberg said, he had “had no idea how incredibly screwed up our popular understanding of what the witch hunts were about and what the inquisitions were about.”
What Goldberg learned is that “the Catholic Church was a check on [the worst of] these things. The real problems were with the people themselves — the masses, They were constantly wanting to lynch people for being witches.”
At the same time, taking advantage of the peasants’ illiteracy “local, secular aristocrats and lords were constantly pandering to the mob and the Church would come in and say, ‘Calm down everybody, let’s figure out if this person is really a witch or not.’ and often, very often, would say, ‘You guys are nuts, leave this poor woman alone.’”
Next week on The Score, we’ll hear from an expert on Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, as well as an excerpt from my recent interview with Pete Wells, who is running against incumbent Democrat Donald McEachin in Virginia’s Fourth Congressional District.
And, in case you missed it, check out my op/ed piece from last Wednesday’s Richmond Times-Dispatch, headlined “Automotive tariff proposal promises to hurt workers, businesses, and consumers.”