America’s Principle Agent Problem.

November 10th, 2017

Instapundit frequently links to another story of government incompetence with the comment “We have the worst ruling class in our history.”

There are so many examples, it is hard to list them but I will try with a few.

First, let’s have a definition.

The principal–agent problem, in political science and economics, (also known as agency dilemma or the agency problem) occurs when one person or entity (the “agent”) is able to make decisions on behalf of, or that impact, another person or entity: the “principal”.[1] This dilemma exists in circumstances where agents are motivated to act in their own best interests, which are contrary to those of their principals, and is an example of moral hazard.

The Founders were well aware of this problem and tried to protect the citizens with certain provisions of the Constitution.

No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law; and a regular Statement and Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of all public Money shall be published from time to time.

This provision was violated by Barack Obama who spent billions to subsidize insurance companies to support his “Affordable Care Act” which was not successful.

Of course, the Amendments were intended to protect the rights of the people but the one that has been ignored for 100 years is the Tenth.

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.

The Civil War largely ended Federalism.

In recent years, political parties have mislead their voters, the worst offender being the Republican Party. The Democrats posture as the party of the working man but it has become a party with two wings, the rich who want social liberties, and the poor who want to be taken care of. Jay Cost has written a good book about the Democrats Party called, “Spoiled Rotten, which explains the current policies of the party which has adopted “Identity politics” in which race and victim status has become a principal focus. My own review of the book is here.

The Republicans have gradually become the party of small business but the interests of small business are not being considered as paramount as the party seems to be evolving into another party of professional politicians whose personal interest trumps (so to speak) the interests of the voters. The result has been the rebellion of the Tea Party and more recently the election of Dave Brat, an economics professor, to Congress defeating Eric Cantor, a member of the GOP leadership, in 2014.

The election of Donald Trump has presented the GOP Congress with a crisis to which many have responded by retiring. One wonders what the next step of their career will be. Few, I suspect, will return home to the district that elected them. Most will remain in DC as Cantor has done.

Immediately thereafter, Cantor accepted a position as vice chairman of investment bank Moelis & Company. and,

In February 2015, the firm opened its Washington DC office, following the hire of Eric Cantor, former House Majority Leader, in September 2014.

The “Swamp” as President Trump describes it.

Other examples of the decline of the ruling class are easy to find.

A former professor at West Point, the Army’s Military Academy described the decline in standards at that institution.

The US Navy has had a series of catastrophic ship incidents an analysis is here.

As you will see over and over; yes there is individual failure, but this is actually a systemic failure. No one gets to be OOD overnight. No one gets to be the senior officer in CIC by fogging a mirror. These are, in theory, highly trained professionals who have invested years to be standing that watch. At a minimum, the basics should be instinct, should be expected – should be reinforced by the entire watch team because that is what we do. This did not happen in isolation. This is not the first time any of this took place.

Why, on this ship on this watch, did this happen? What were the conditions that created such an environment?

The rest is horrifying. What has happened to competence ?

The Transportation Security Administration has improved their success at detecting violations to only 80% failure.

Back in 2015, the TSA failed 67 of 70 tests that were conducted around the nation, which involved undercover officers smuggling banned items through security. That’s right, they have a ~95% failure rate. At least up until recently, the TSA has been consistent. In July a similar test was conducted, where 16 of 17 tests were failed, which is a similar failure rate.

I simply can’t wrap my head around how this is acceptable. Earlier in the year we saw the federal government imposing ridiculous (and dangerous) bans on electronics for flights from the Middle East to the US, while for flights departing the US, 95% of weapons go undetected.

Information is now coming out about the latest tests conducted by the Department of Homeland Security, in which undercover agents brought weapons through TSA checkpoint. This time around they’re not revealing exact numbers, but rather are only giving ballpark figures.

Then, of course, we had the botched implementation of Obamacare and its web site registration system.

Though the Obama administration tried to cover up the full extent of the website failure in the days following its launch, the lengthy HHS document tells a tale of complete collapse. It was forced out of this secretive administration by our November 25, 2013, Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit. Judicial Watch filed suit after HHS refused to respond to our October 7, 2013, FOIA request seeking the following information:

Any and all records concerning, regarding, or related to the number of individuals that purchased health insurance through Healthcare.gov between October 1, 2013, and October 4, 2013.

A simple request – that was stonewalled for over six months. Now we know why. This document shows that, on its first full day of operation, October 1, 2013, Obamacare’s Healthcare.gov received only one enrollment! That’s one – out of 334 million Americans. On the second day, 48% of registrations failed to process.

Billions were spent on this disaster. The Oregon state program failed completely

Oregon, under then-Gov. John Kitzhaber, aspired to create a shining model for other ObamaCare exchanges, but instead, it became its poster child of dysfunction. After spending more than $300 million in federal taxpayer dollars, Oregon pulled the plug last year and decided to default to the federal exchange.

The state is now embroiled in lawsuits with its primary vendor, Oracle, and current and former Oregon officials are the subject of congressional and other federal investigations. Depending upon the outcome of those investigations, Congress could demand that the state to pay back the $300 million it spent on a project that numerous reports show was fraught with mismanagement and political maneuverings.

Kitzhaber was an ER doc and may have returned to that occupation after his adventures as Governor.

The failure of Congress to repeal Obamacare is one more example of incompetence. The reaction of Republican Congress persons to Trump after his election suggests where their loyalties lie. The Swamp.

I think Angelo Codevilla’s piece about “The Ruling Class” has the best explanation.

When this majority discovered that virtually no one in a position of power in either party or with a national voice would take their objections seriously, that decisions about their money were being made in bipartisan backroom deals with interested parties, and that the laws on these matters were being voted by people who had not read them, the term “political class” came into use. Then, after those in power changed their plans from buying toxic assets to buying up equity in banks and major industries but refused to explain why, when they reasserted their right to decide ad hoc on these and so many other matters, supposing them to be beyond the general public’s understanding, the American people started referring to those in and around government as the “ruling class.” And in fact Republican and Democratic office holders and their retinues show a similar presumption to dominate and fewer differences in tastes, habits, opinions, and sources of income among one another than between both and the rest of the country. They think, look, and act as a class.

Corruption at all levels.

October 20th, 2017

UPDATE: More on the Clinton Russian scandal.


J. Michael Waller, writing in the Daily Caller, says that new FBI information about corruption in a Clinton-approved uranium deal with Russia raises questions about Clinton’s actions after the FBI broke up a deep-cover Russian spy ring in 2010. The FBI ran an elaborate and highly successful operation called Ghost Stories to monitor and rip apart a deep-cover Russian agent network. It tracked a ring of Russian spies who lived between Boston and Washington, D.C. under false identities.

In 2010, thanks to the Ghost Stories operation, the FBI arrested 10 spies. According to Waller, “Secretary of State Clinton worked feverishly to return the Russian agents to Moscow in a hastily arranged, lopsided deal with Putin.”

If this is true, why did Clinton do so? Waller ties her actions to the Russia uranium deal:

For the Clintons, the FBI’s biggest counterintelligence bust in history couldn’t have come at a worse time. . .It all happened as the uranium deal was in play: An arrangement to provide Moscow’s state Rosatom nuclear agency with 20 percent of American uranium capacity, with $145,000,000 to pour into the Clinton Family Foundation and its projects.

There are many examples of the corruption of our government. A serious commenter at All Althouse said this’

Blogger buwaya said…
Another difference between the US, the greatest banana republic that has ever been, and your garden-variety banana republic, is that the economic interests that run it are of a vastly different kind.

Your usual banana republic was and is run by people who make money by making things, and mining things, and growing things, and selling them abroad or to local consumers. They may be assholes, they may employ thugs, they can and do cheat and collude and corrupt governments, but their source of wealth is production and there are significant interests shared with the common people, much more than one would think.

In the US though the big money has nearly no interests in common with the commoners. Their wealth rests on exploitation of laws and regulations, paper assets. The people are extraneous and irrelevant.

I have thought for some time that we are being dominated by billionaires that don’t make useful things. Most of it, like Facebook and Google, is vaporware. Some other techie will come along and build a better mousetrap and those entities will disappear.

They don’t make things. Much of the wealth in this country is now created by handling money. It is an old ironic comments that”Even the handling of money can be profitable.”

Now, we are seeing the gigantic scandal that may or may not become apparent. The Democrats are trying to keep the lid on it and Republicans are not a great deal more trustworthy. The story is explained here.

To read the headlines, a poor, beleaguered opposition-research firm was humiliated and constitutionally abused this week by partisan Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee. Fusion’s lawyers sent a 17-page letter to the committee’s chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes, accusing him of misdeeds, declaring his subpoenas invalid, and invoking a supposed First Amendment right to silence. Yet the firm’s founders, the story went, were hauled in nonetheless and forced to plead the Fifth. “No American should experience the indignity that occurred today,” Fusion’s lawyer, Joshua Levy, declared.

Fusion is known as a ruthless firm that excels in smear jobs, but few have noticed the operation it’s conducting against the lawmakers investigating it. The false accusations against Mr. Nunes—that he’s acting unethically and extralegally, that he’s sabotaging the Russia probe—are classic.

Read the rest of this entry »

Christopher Columbus.

October 9th, 2017

bronx-christopher-columbus

Today is the second Monday in October and, since 1934, it has been celebrated as “Columbus Day.” The original celebration was political, to honor Italian immigrants who had come during the previous 40 years. However, Columbus was from Genoa, which was an independent republic until Italy was unified in the 19th century. He sailed for Spain after having been turned down by the Portuguese royal family, which was content with its African routes to India.

The best history of Columbus was written by Samuel Elliot Morrison, Harvard historian and sailor who would write the history of the
the US Navy in World War II.

His Columbus history is a great work and involved a number of voyages by Morrison and colleagues who repeated Columbus voyages relying on original documents to duplicate his routes as best they could.

To research a biography of Christopher Columbus, Morison spent five months aboard a three-masted sailing ship, retracing the explorer’s routes 10,000 miles across the Atlantic and around the Caribbean. The resulting book, Admiral of the Ocean Sea: A Life of Christopher Columbus (1942), made Morison’s name as a scholar who was not content to dwell in the archives. It also gave him entree. “That Columbus book…brought me a welcome from sailors everywhere,” he once said. “It did me more good than the [naval] commission. Columbus was my passport.”

It helps to be a sailor to understand what Morrison was doing with Columbus. He was already a sailor and knew enough about the sea to recognize how Columbus would go about his task.

In 1940, Morison published Portuguese Voyages to America in the Fifteenth Century, a book that presaged his succeeding publications on the explorer, Christopher Columbus. In 1941, Morison was named Jonathan Trumbull Professor of American History at Harvard. For Admiral of the Ocean Sea (1942), Morison combined his personal interest in sailing with his scholarship by actually sailing to the various places that Christopher Columbus explored. The Harvard Columbus Expedition, led by Morison and including his wife and Captain John W. McElroy, Herbert F. Hossmer, Jr., Richard S. Colley, Dr. Clifton W. Anderson, Kenneth R. Spear and Richard Spear, left on 28 August 1939 aboard the 147 foot ketch Capitana for the Azores and Lisbon, Portugal from which they sailed on the 45 foot ketch Mary Otis to retrace Columbus’ route using manuscripts and records of his voyages reaching Trinidad by way of Cadiz, Madeira, and the Canary Islands.[8] After following the coast of South and Central America the expedition returned to Trinidad on 15 December 1939.[8] The expedition returned to New York on 2 February 1940 aboard the United Fruit liner Veragua.[8] The book was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1943.

He drew the outline of islands as they approached them and compared his drawings to those of Columbus that could still be found. The same technique in recognition is still used in cruising publications for amateur sailors.
GPS has replaced a lot of the navigational methods used by tradition but the US Navy has returned to training deck officers in celestial navigation.

But now the US navy is reinstating classes on celestial navigation for all new recruits, teaching the use of sextants – instruments made of mirrors used to calculate angles and plot directions – because of rising concerns that computers used to chart courses could be hacked or malfunction.
“We went away from celestial navigation because computers are great,” said Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Rogers, the deputy chairman of the naval academy’s Department of Seamanship and Navigation. He told Maryland newspaper The Capital Gazette: “The problem is there’s no backup.”

Most of Columbus’ navigation was “Dead Reckoning” as celestial navigation was primitive at the time he sailed. Latitude sailing was the most reliable method before longitude could be determined. The navigator would sail, often by coastal methods, until reaching the latitude of the destination, then sail east or west along that latitude until the destination was reached. Columbus used this method although his latitude measurements were greatly in error.

Middle-latitude sailing combines plane sailing and parallel sailing. Plane sailing is used to find difference of latitude and departure when course and distance are known, or vice versa. Parallel sailing is used to interconvert departure and difference of longitude. The mean latitude (Lm) is normally used for want of a practical means of determining the middle latitude, or the latitude at which the arc length of the parallel separating the meridians passing through two specific points is exactly equal to the departure in proceeding from one point to the other. The formulas for these transformations are:

DLo = p sec Lm and p = DLo cos Lm.

The mean latitude (Lm) is half the arithmetic sum of the latitudes of two places on the same side of the equator. It is labeled N or S to indicate its position north or south of the equator. If a course line crosses the equator, solve each course line segment separately.

This is more complicated as it assumes two latitudes, origin and destination. Columbus knew that the Canary Islands were on the same latitude as China, where he planned to end his voyage. His estimate of longitude was far off, by about 30 degrees. He did not know of the existence of America but began, by his fourth voyage, to realize that he had discovered a New World.

His navigational skills were incredible, given the time. He was able to return to Spain, although his first landfall was Portugal as he encountered heavy weather on the return. He made a total of four voyages and returns. He was less successful as a colonial administrator than navigator but his accomplishments as sailor and navigator are enormous.

The Las Vegas shooting

October 3rd, 2017

paddock

Sunday evening saw the worst mass murder in US history at a country and western music concert. 22,000 people were gathered in Las Vega when a man for unknown reasons opened fire for a hotel suite across from the concert.

The shooter was Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old man who lived in Mesquite, Nevada, a small retirement-type community outside Las Vegas. The Reno Gazette-Journal has information about Paddock’s girlfriend, Marilou Danley, who is currently out of the country. Law enforcement reported Paddock had property in Reno, Nevada, and sent a SWAT team to investigate his home up north. Police have not determined a motive yet, but there is speculation the shooter had large gambling debt. Paddock’s brother reports the murderer was not violent, he was not a “gun person,” had no military experience, was not religious or political. Paddock’s father was on the FBI’s most wanted list for bank robbery.

Were there two shooters ? I wonder.

There is also a suggestion that he was wealthy and debt was not an issue. He was a “high roller” or, as the term is used in Las Vegas, a “whale.”

Why would he choose a country music concert. CNN tells us that country music fans are Trump supporters.

This, if true, might suggest a motive. What if the shooter was a Trump hater ?

A video of an anti-Trump protest in Reno, where the shooter has a home, has now been deleted by You Tube.

They do that when the narrative is threatened.

Another site that the man in the NASA shirt and the pussy hat is not Paddock.

We should know pretty soon and it is suggestive that nothing is coming out about motive. If he was a Tea Party member, (remember Aurora CO?), we would hear about it 24/7. The girlfriend is out of the country, another interesting fact. What does she know ?

Of course, the left immediately focuses on gun control.

The fact that they do so quickly is another hint that the motive may be a problem for them. Has anyone else noticed how quickly James Hodgkinson disappeared from view ?

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, said on the Senate floor that the gunman apparently volunteered on his presidential campaign. Sanders said he was “sickened by this despicable act.”

Hodgkinson praised Sanders on social media, CBS News has learned. The FBI is going through his posts, mainly on Facebook, where he was highly critical of President Trump, calling him a traitor. The social media company said his two profiles have been removed from its platform.

He has also been removed from the news and from history. How long before we know about Paddock ? The police have had his cell phone and computer now for 2 days. What do they know about motive ?

What is going on with professional sports ?

September 23rd, 2017

d day

That image is from Zero Hedge but it was so good I had to use it.

We see every day new protestations by professional athletes about political matters. Almost all are left wing politics.

ESPN, a sports network has become another source of left wing politics.

ESPN became a cable-television giant by offering wall-to-wall sports, so naturally the channel has increasingly chosen to offer political commentary. In a remarkable coincidence, its viewership has been declining. ESPN’s shrinking audience triggered layoffs of about 100 employees this week. While this column wishes that Fox Butterfield could help make sense of all this, sports fans nationwide are hoping that perhaps the cable network will once again consider offering the coverage that made them watch in the first place.

It seems to be a mystery to the management.

Like many cable networks, ESPN has been hit hard by consumers canceling expensive monthly pay-TV packages in favor of smaller packages or streaming services. Over the past five years, ESPN has gone from 99 million subscribers to 87.44 million, according to Nielsen data. At the same time, the cost for sports content continues to rise, putting pressure on the sports giant’s bottom line.

Well, they fired Rush Limbaugh and Curt Schilling for comments they disliked. Who could have predicted this ?

The network may be losing subscriber revenue not just because of cord-cutting, Cohn allowed, but because viewers are increasingly turned off by ESPN inserting politics into its sports coverage.
“That is definitely a percentage of it,” Cohn said Thursday on 77 WABC’s “Bernie and Sid” show when asked whether certain social or political stances contributed to the stupor that resulted in roughly 100 employees getting the ax this week. “I don’t know how big a percentage, but if anyone wants to ignore that fact, they’re blind.”

Then there is the epidemic of protesting during the National Anthem.

It began with Colin Kaepernick, a biracial child adopted and raised by white parents who have been rewarded by his outrageous behavior which is celebrated on the left as seen in the NY Times.

His name was Colin Kaepernick, and what he was looking for, Ogundimu and others discovered, was a deeper connection to his own roots and a broader understanding of the lives of others.

Seven years later, now 29, Kaepernick is the most polarizing figure in American sports. Outside of politics, there may be nobody in popular culture at this complex moment so divisive and so galvanizing, so scorned and so appreciated.

Contrary to the Times, it may have begun with his Black Muslim girlfriend who thinks the owner of the Baltimore team who pays his black players millions is a “slave owner.”

Kaepernick’s antics are now being imitated by 8 year old children who are members of a “football team.”

These players all seem to have a characteristic in common.

They are all black. A few white players have adopted this pose in sympathy but it seems this is one more example of the yearning for segregation.

The millionaire players may not be doing their poorer imitators in inner city ghettos any good.

Segregation is returning.

September 16th, 2017

The strange goings on at colleges and in the streets of cities like St Louis makes me wonder if blacks have decided to revert to segregation.

Peaceful protests Friday turned violent when protesters broke a window and splattered paint on Mayor Lyda Krewson’s house. Police in riot gear responded, moved the crowd away from the house and eventually broke up the group with tear gas. Later, at least two armored vehicles were deployed.

The protests began Friday morning after a white former St. Louis officer was found not guilty of first-degree murder in the shooting death of a black suspect.

Krewson-Official-Photo-Profile-250px

In 1995 Lyda’s husband, Jeff Krewson, was tragically murdered in an attempted carjacking in front of their Central West End row house. With the support of family, friends, and many great neighbors, Krewson continued to raise her 2 kids there.

Why would any white person want to live in St Louis ?

The man shot by the officer, who was charged with first degree murder in spite of the fact that the man he shot was a drug dealer and armed and fleeing police at high speed.

The videos of the incident clearly show that the shooting was part of a confrontation.

Why in the world was the policeman overcharged?

The riots in Ferguson and Baltimore show that cities with large black populations are powder kegs.

A white reporter is attacked while trying to provide news coverage.

He asks why they picked on him ? He is white. He says, “My boss told me if there is any violence, leave, so we are leaving.”

It doesn’t require court judgements that blacks don’t like.

White and Asian students studying at Dartmouth’s Baker Library are harassed.

Why is this going on ? Dartmouth is an even more leftist campus than when I was there 25 years ago.

I don’t seem to be the only one noticing.

What are the Democrats up to today? They’re going back to their roots and have gotten back into the sign-posting business again. They’re putting up signs in every cafe in the land to let us Deplorables know we can’t sit with them. They’re trying to be sneakier about it this time. The signs don’t say “TRUMP SUPPORTERS GO AROUND BACK” or “DEMOCRATS ONLY.” Oh no! That would be too obvious. Instead, they’re posting these. I found this at the local coffee shop I had been frequenting instead of Starbucks. I haven’t been back since.

It seems to be all over, not just streets and college campuses.

This book, which explains how Affirmative Action harms black students, might help.

Sander and Taylor have long admired affirmative action’s original goals, but after many years of studying racial preferences, they have reached a controversial but undeniable conclusion: that preferences hurt underrepresented minorities far more than they help them. At the heart of affirmative action’s failure is a simple phenomenon called mismatch. Using dramatic new data and numerous interviews with affected former students and university officials of color, the authors show how racial preferences often put students in competition with far better-prepared classmates, dooming many to fall so far behind that they can never catch up. Mismatch largely explains why, even though black applicants are more likely to enter college than whites with similar backgrounds, they are far less likely to finish; why there are so few black and Hispanic professionals with science and engineering degrees and doctorates; why black law graduates fail bar exams at four times the rate of whites; and why universities accept relatively affluent minorities over working class and poor people of all races.

Those black students were not studying for final exams like the white and Asian students they harassed. Maybe they know it is no use.

Now, Dartmouth has all sorts of black only facilities but still the BLM protests and harasses white and Asian students.

I think I know why. I spent 15 years teaching medical students in small group settings. Many of these students were black but few were American born and raised. Most were foreign born and grew up in countries that do not have the American black obsession with victim rights.

I don’t know the solution.

The Future of Science

August 17th, 2017

We are now entering a crazy period of our history. Europe is sinking beneath a wave of Muslim immigration by young military age men.

America is now seeing riots like Charlottesville. These are being organized by people who have sketchy associations like Jason Kessler who seems to be an “activist” on both sides.

Rumors abound on white nationalist forums that Kessler’s ideological pedigree before 2016 was less than pure and seem to point to involvement in the Occupy movement and past support for President Obama.

So the “white Nationalist” is an Obama supporter ?

Now, we have to turn to the future of science. We had the Larry Summers episode at Harvard.


142
Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers has triggered criticism by telling an economics conference Friday that the under-representation of female scientists at elite universities may stem in part from “innate” differences between men and women, although two Harvard professors who heard the speech said the remarks have been taken out of context in an ensuing national media frenzy.
MIT biologist Nancy Hopkins ’64 said she felt physically ill as a result of listening to Summers’ speech at a National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) luncheon, and she left the conference room half-way through the president’s remarks.

This was one of the first reports of snowflakes requiring fainting couches when faced with opposing opinions.

Summers was subsequently forced to resign in spite of an obsequious apology.

More recently, we have had the defenestration of a Google engineer with 100% evaluations fired after expressing sentiments simialr to those Summers had stated.

The memo he wrote is not like the description in the other link.

For example, on the scales measured by the Big Five personality traits women consistently report higher Neuroticism, agreeableness, warmth (an extraversion facet[68]) and openness to feelings, and men often report higher assertiveness (a facet of extraversion [68]) and openness to ideas as assessed by the NEO-PI-R.[69] Gender differences in personality traits are largest in prosperous, healthy, and egalitarian cultures in which women have more opportunities that are equal to those of men. Differences in the magnitude of sex differences between more or less developed world regions were due to differences between men, not women, in these respective regions. That is, men in highly developed world regions were less neurotic, extroverted, conscientious and agreeable compared to men in less developed world regions. Women, on the other hand tended not to differ in personality traits across regions.

He was demonized for such comments.

OK, Now what have we to face ?

Male dominated Science is to be rejected.

Prescod-Weinstein asserts that, rather than placing value in the contents of peer-reviewed scientific articles, we should recognize that “science has often made its living from encoding and justifying bias” and is “conducted primarily by white men.”

Here’s hoping that airplanes continue to fly with “feminist science” determining design of wings.

This seems related to “Feminist Mathematics.”

There is, now, an extensive critical literature on gender and the nature of science three aspects of which, philosophy, pedagogy and epistemology, seem to be pertinent to a discussion of gender and mathematics.

Who knew that Mathematics had gender ?

We now have a Dean of Engineering at Purdue who is interested in “Feminist Engineering.”

The goal of the FREE research group is to do research, teaching and outreach that helps people (students, the public, engineering colleagues, and other engineering education researchers) develop a more inclusive, engaged, and socially just vision of engineering education.

OK. Maybe it is just the approach to Engineering Education but what is Socially Just Engineering ?

The Legacy of Lyndon Johnson

August 11th, 2017

I have been reading (by listening to audio book versions) Robert Caro’s biography of Lyndon Johnson. It is called “The Years of Lyndon Johnson, as a four book set. I am presently listening to the second volume which is titled, “Means of Ascent.” It is pretty clear that the author does not like Lyndon Johnson but respects his ability to use power. His means of attaining it is what he does not like.

The first volume goes into considerable detail on Lyndon’s father Sam Johnson.
Sam Johnson was a Texas state legislator who was scrupulously honest and refused to accept any “favors” from the lobbyists even though the Texas legislature was famously corrupt. Sam Johnson was idolized by his son, Lyndon, but Sam was an idealist and a poor businessman and went broke. Lyndon was humiliated by their poverty and was determined to acquire money and power, regardless of the ethics.

The only college he could get into was a small teachers’ college called Southwest Texas State Teachers’ College

Initially called Southwest Texas State Normal School, the final word in the name was changed to “College” in 1918. Then, “Normal” became “Teachers” in 1923.

When Johnson attended, it was small and the students mostly impoverished. His machinations to get favors from the president and to get political power to reward friends and punish enemies are described in the volume I of the biography and are an indicator of his future tactics.

The second volume spends a great amount of time on the 1948 Senate election when he opposed a former and well loved Governor named Coke Stevenson, who had a reputation as incorruptible and tough. The story of that election, and how Johnson stole it, is a major part of the book. Part of Johnson’s technique was to try to implicate Stevenson in the kind of corruption that he himself had committed. After the book came out in 1990, the author was attacked by Johnson supports as being biased in favor of Stevenson. In response, he wrote a rebuttal to the attacks on Stevenson’s character.

After Lyndon Johnson got to Washington, according to Caro, he began to boast about how he stole the election from Stevenson. Being clever and powerful was more important to Johnson’s self image than a reputation for honesty.

What has Johnson’s legacy been for this country ? I think it has been disastrous.

When Eisenhower was President, it was in Johnson’s interest to cooperate with him and some of Johnson’s liberal sympathies, which he concealed from his Texas supporters, were beneficial in the era when Civil Rights legislation was being held hostage by the southern Senators and Congressmen.

In 1955 he had a major heart attack and gave up smoking. By 1958, he was interested in the presidency and he ultimately lost out to Kennedy. He was invited onto the Democratic ticket by Kennedy and they won a very close election in 1960, which may have been, once again, stolen by Johnson in Texas and Richard J Daley in Chicago. Eisenhower Attorney General Rogers told Nixon he had enough evidence of election fraud to potentially reverse the result but Nixon declined to pursue the challenge, asserting it would not be safe to do so in a time of international challenge. This account is in Teddy White’s book, “The Making of the President 1960”

Kennedy was assassinated in 1963 and Johnson succeeded. In 1964, he defeated Barry Goldwater after a vicious campaign that saw Goldwater accused of wanting to expand the special forces war in Vietnam. Of course, after the election, Johnson greatly expanded the war and probably guaranteed its loss by micromanaging the details, like he micromanaged his political campaigns. HR McMaster’s book, “Dereliction of Duty” describes in considerable detail just what was done by Johnson and McNamara without objection by the Joint Chiefs.

Johnson’s domestic agenda is often called The War on Poverty, and many cynics contend that it was lost years ago.

As a part of the Great Society, Johnson believed in expanding the federal government’s roles in education and health care as poverty reduction strategies.[1] These policies can also be seen as a continuation of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, which ran from 1933 to 1937, and the Four Freedoms of 1941. Johnson stated “Our aim is not only to relieve the symptom of poverty, but to cure it and, above all, to prevent it.”[2]

The legacy of the War on Poverty policy initiative remains in the continued existence of such federal programs as Head Start, Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), TRiO, and Job Corps.

The War on Poverty included many programs that encouraged single motherhood and is widely considered to have destroyed the black family.

The rise of the welfare state in the 1960s contributed greatly to the demise of the black family as a stable institution. The out-of-wedlock birth rate among African Americans today is 73%, three times higher than it was prior to the War on Poverty. Children raised in fatherless homes are far more likely to grow up poor and to eventually engage in criminal behavior, than their peers who are raised in two-parent homes.

Some of this has been a result of the legalization of abortion and the appearance of the birth control pill.

Still, great improvements had been the trend before Johnson took office.

Thus began an unprecedented commitment of federal funds to a wide range of measures aimed at redistributing wealth in the United States.[1] From 1965 to 2008, nearly $16 trillion of taxpayer money (in constant 2008 dollars) was spent on means-tested welfare programs for the poor.

The economic milieu in which the War on Poverty arose is noteworthy. As of 1965, the number of Americans living below the official poverty line had been declining continuously since the beginning of the decade and was only about half of what it had been fifteen years earlier. Between 1950 and 1965, the proportion of people whose earnings put them below the poverty level, had decreased by more than 30%. The black poverty rate had been cut nearly in half between 1940 and 1960.

After Johnson, things changed. One would not know it from reading the Wikipedia article which is very pro-Johnson.

Between the mid-Sixties and the mid-Seventies, the dollar value of public housing quintupled and the amount spent on food stamps rose more than tenfold. From 1965 to 1969, government-provided benefits increased by a factor of 8; by 1974 such benefits were an astounding 20 times higher than they had been in 1965. Also as of 1974, federal spending on social-welfare programs amounted to 16% of America’s Gross National Product, a far cry from the 8% figure of 1960. By 1977 the number of people receiving public assistance had more than doubled since 1960.

The Vietnam War radicalized the Baby Boomer generation, which became the decade of “sex, drugs and rock and roll.” A generation of anti-war students stayed in graduate school and became the radical faculty which has created the atmosphere that drives out faculty members who offend hypersensitive students.

The complaint at the time was that Johnson was determined to have both “Guns and Butter” to fight a war while expanding civilian spending.
The 1965 passage of Medicare and Medicaid began the trip to unrepayable national debt.

The trend is clear.

gross-national-debt

Just since 1974, the debt has steadily climbed and will never be repaid as the World War II debt was.

This is the legacy of Lyndon Johnson. Had he never been elected to the Senate in 1948, there would have been a president Nixon in 1960.

There would have been no Vietnam War.

Probably no destruction of the black family and the desperate inner city crime problems.

No “Days of Rage with the radical Underground” and domestic terrorism in the 1960s and 70s.

Kennedy would probably have served out his career in the Senate as a far more conservative Senator than his brother Teddy.

This would be a very different world.

The Administrative State pushes back.

August 6th, 2017

The election of Donald Trump has created hysteria on the left. It has also met increasing resistance on the right which seems unwilling to keep election promises made when Obama was president and could veto any symbolic legislation, which he did in 2015.

By voting to nullify Obamacare — the signature domestic accomplishment of the Obama administration — GOP congressional leaders fulfilled a longtime pledge to voters and rank-and-file members to get a repeal to President Barack Obama’s desk, even though he will veto it.

It was, of course, an empty gesture but it was also a promise of what could happen if a Republican president was elected in 2016. Of course, Hillary Clinton was expected by almost everyone to win.

That remains our outlook today in our final forecast of the year. Clinton is a 71 percent favorite to win the election according to our polls-only model and a 72 percent favorite according to our polls-plus model. (The models are essentially the same at this point, so they show about the same forecast.) This reflects a meaningful improvement for Clinton in the past 48 hours as the news cycle has taken a final half-twist in her favor. Her chances have increased from about 65 percent.

But she didn’t and now we have President Trump.

What has Congress done ? It voted down an Obamacare repeal.

Now, the Deep State is pushing back and threatens to overthrow the elected President.

Since the election there has been an unprecedented attempt to unwind the election result. Events have accelerated on several fronts lately with attempts from outside and within to paralyze the Trump administration.

What started as a collective media freakout on Election Night 2016 quickly progressed to an unprecedented attempt to intimidate Electors into changing their votes. Some Democrats announced, even before Trump took office, plans to impeach him, and Democrat politicians fed media-driven Russia collusion conspiracy theories for which they knew there was no evidence.

Chuck Schumer, for example, used the alleged fact of Donald Trump being under FBI investigation as an argument against confirming Neal Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, even though Schumer (but not the public) knew from intelligence briefings that Trump was not personally under investigation.

All the while, the permanent bureaucracy, particularly in the intelligence community, started an unending and almost daily series of leaks meant to paralyze the administration.

It has not been content to complain and leak secrets. Now it is actively defying the President.

Chris Horner, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, pointed to news reports about upset employees, social media campaigns and “civil disobedience” training for staffers looking to push back against the White House.

GOP strategist Matt Mackowiak, a contributor to The Hill, attributed the blowback to a host of factors, from the political make-up of civil servants to the use of holdover officials in government offices that are still waiting for the Senate to confirm Trump political appointees.

He said there is also a “real industry now behind recruiting whistleblowers inside the resistance movement,” and creating public outcry about the administration.

The Democrats have contributed by delaying confirmation of Trump appointees. Many of the defiant government employees are Civil Service and cannot be fired. The resistance has not been limited to the left. Charles Krauthammer, an alleged stalwart of the right, is encouraging resistance, and few recall his history.

In 1978, Krauthammer moved to Washington, D.C. to direct planning in psychiatric research under the Carter administration.[1] He began contributing articles about politics to The New Republic and, in 1980, served as a speech writer to Vice President Walter Mondale.

His shift to the right came in foreign policy, not domestic affairs. He is a “neocon,” a term used for Democrats who became “hawks” on foreign policy matters but, like Bill Kristol, another neocon, he is virulently anti-Trump. Now that is OK in primary season but the election is OVER!

Kristol has long had a heated relationship with Trump. After a failed attempt to court either Sen. Ben Sasse or Mitt Romney to kamikaze Trump’s presidential campaign as a third party candidate, the conservative editor recently proposed launching a new political movement called “The New Republicans.”

Seeing as how some of these people were formerly Democrats, or like his father, supported the New Deal, they are not very conservative.

Unlike liberals, for example, neo-conservatives rejected most of the Great Society programs sponsored by Lyndon Johnson; and unlike traditional conservatives, they supported the more limited welfare state instituted by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Some conservatives thought the New Deal was the beginning of the end of American democracy. A lot of us prefer Calvin Coolidge to Roosevelt.

More Monsoon Season

July 29th, 2017

Monsoon season began July 11 with the first thunderstorm. We missed the worst of the flooding which has been significant in the lower part of Tucson. We are in the foothills and while there is considerable runoff in local streets, we have seen no flooding.

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Back Yard

While we have had enough hard rain to hide the mountains behind us,the city has had flooding.

Flooding

The flooding has been worst in the southeast part of the city and we are northwest.

gutters

I had installed new larger gutters in anticipation of monsoon season but the rain that day exceeded their capacity and they were overflowing.

Rainbow

We did have a rainbow the other day.

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End of the Rainbow

It’s not often the you live at the end of the rainbow but we did that day.

Monsoon season, in other years I have been here, lasts until late August so we have a month more.