Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

What is going on in Syria ?

Saturday, May 7th, 2016

Rhodes

Our feckless president has been lecturing the US public about various topics he considers important but what has actually been going on ? We do know that a Navy SEAL named Charles Keating was killed in Iraq.

(CNN)When a team of less than a dozen U.S. military advisers came under attack in Iraq Tuesday from more than 100 ISIS fighters, Navy SEAL Charles Keating IV was part of the force sent in to rescue them.

All the advisers made it back. Keating, a decorated combat veteran and star athlete who decided to enlist after the 9/11 attacks, did not.
Providing new details Wednesday about the operation that took the life of the grandson of prominent financier and World War II pilot Charles Keating Jr., Coalition spokesman Col. Steve Warren said that the clash between ISIS and the Kurdish Peshmerga forces the advisers were assisting was “a big fight, one of the largest we’ve seen recently.”

That’s Iraq, where Obama pulled out all US forces but is now sneaking a few back in, hoping no one notices.

In Iran, Obama’s foreign policy “advisor” named Ben Rhodes, admits it was all a lie.

“I immediately developed this idea that, you know, maybe I want to try to write about international affairs,” he explained. “In retrospect, I had no idea what that meant.” His mother’s closest friend growing up ran the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which then published Foreign Policy. He sent her a letter and included what would wind up being his only piece of published fiction, a short story that appeared in The Beloit Fiction Journal. It was titled “The Goldfish Smiles, You Smile Back.” The story still haunts him, he says, because “it foreshadowed my entire life.”

From writing short stories, Rhodes now writes fiction as national policy.

Rhodes strategized and ran the successful Iran-deal messaging campaign, helped negotiate the opening of American relations with Cuba after a hiatus of more than 50 years and has been a co-writer of all of Obama’s major foreign-policy speeches. “Every day he does 12 jobs, and he does them better than the other people who have those jobs,” Terry Szuplat, the longest-tenured member of the National Security Council speechwriting corps, told me. On the largest and smallest questions alike, the voice in which America speaks to the world is that of Ben Rhodes.

Is the policy that Rhodes writes working ? Better not to know.

Iran has been supporting Syrian president Bashar al-Assad. They have spent a lot of money and lives defending him against his people and the Russians. How is that working out ?

The Russians are back in Palmyra, which the ISIS types tried to destroy.

The orchestra played pieces by Johan Sebastian Bach and two Russian composers, Sergei Prokofiev and Rodion Shchedrin, in a second-century Roman amphitheater, the set for a 2015 film produced by the Islamic State that featured the execution of 25 people.

The contrast was intended to underscore what Russia sees as its underappreciated role in helping Syrian forces liberate Palmyra from zealots and fighting on the side of civilization against barbarism.

The Russians were so eager to make that point that they flew a group of reporters from Moscow to Syria and then bused them to Palmyra to see the performance. The production, attended by a heavily guarded V.I.P. guest list, was broadcast live on Russian state television.

Does Obama know about this ? Probably not. Ash Carter seems to be running foreign policy these days.

Rhodes’s opinions were helpful in shaping the group’s [Iraq Study Group] conclusions — a scathing indictment of the policy makers responsible for invading Iraq. For Rhodes, who wrote much of the I.S.G. report, the Iraq war was proof, in black and white, not of the complexity of international affairs or the many perils attendant on political decision-making but of the fact that the decision-makers were morons.

One result of this experience was that when Rhodes joined the Obama campaign in 2007, he arguably knew more about the Iraq war than the candidate himself, or any of his advisers. He had also developed a healthy contempt for the American foreign-policy establishment, including editors and reporters at The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Yorker and elsewhere, who at first applauded the Iraq war and then sought to pin all the blame on Bush and his merry band of neocons when it quickly turned sour. If anything, that anger has grown fiercer during Rhodes’s time in the White House. He referred to the American foreign-policy establishment as the Blob.

How is Iran, Obama and Rhodes ally, doing ?

They seem to be having trouble as they are recruiting child soldiers, as they did in the Iraq-Iran War.

Iran’s regime has done this before. During the Iran-Iraq War, which killed around a million people between 1980 and 1988, the Basij recruited thousands of children to clear minefields.

After lengthy cult-like brainwashing sessions, the poor kids placed plastic keys around their necks, symbolizing martyrs’ permission to enter paradise, and ran ahead of Iranian ground troops and tanks to remove Iraqi mines by detonating them with their feet and blowing their small bodies to pieces.

Children have been fighting in wars as long as there have been wars, but shoving them into the meat grinder in the 21st century is a war crime expressly prohibited and sometimes even punished by all civilized governments. The International Criminal Court in The Hague, for instance, convicted Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga Dyilo of war crimes in 2012 for “conscripting and enlisting children under the age of fifteen years and using them to participate actively in hostilities.”

The Basij is a paramilitary branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, or Pasdaran, and it’s commanded by the iron-fisted head of state, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. It’s mostly used for internal repression and provided many of the shock troops who brutally suppressed non-violent demonstrations during the Green Revolution in 2009.

Why are they now going back to the tactics of 1988?

“Second,” he continued, “the war in Syria and keeping the dictator Bashar Assad in power is so crucial for the Iranian regime’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei that he is willing to pay any price for this objective. In February in a meeting with the families of the regime’s forces who were killed in Syria, Khamenei said that if we did not fight in Syria, we would have had to fight with our opposition in major Iranian cities. Resorting to the tactic of mobilizing teenagers only leads to one conclusion, the mullahs are facing a deadly impasse in Syria.

So, the Russians seem to be winning and the Iranians are losing and who does Obama ally with ?

Rhodes’s innovative campaign to sell the Iran deal is likely to be a model for how future administrations explain foreign policy to Congress and the public. The way in which most Americans have heard the story of the Iran deal presented — that the Obama administration began seriously engaging with Iranian officials in 2013 in order to take advantage of a new political reality in Iran, which came about because of elections that brought moderates to power in that country — was largely manufactured for the purpose for selling the deal. Even where the particulars of that story are true, the implications that readers and viewers are encouraged to take away from those particulars are often misleading or false. Obama’s closest advisers always understood him to be eager to do a deal with Iran as far back as 2012, and even since the beginning of his presidency. “It’s the center of the arc,” Rhodes explained to me two days after the deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, was implemented.

And some people think Trump will be a foreign policy disaster.

The Trump Preference Cascade is moving.

Saturday, April 30th, 2016

rally

Earlier in the year, I predicted that a preference cascade is forming around Trump.

“This illustrates, in a mild way, the reason why totalitarian regimes collapse so suddenly. (Click here for a more complex analysis of this and related
issues). Such regimes have little legitimacy, but they spend a lot of effort making sure that citizens don’t realize the extent to which their fellow-citizens dislike the regime. If the secret police and the censors are doing their job, 99% of the populace can hate the regime and be ready to revolt against it – but no revolt will occur because no one realizes that everyone else feels the same way.

We are in a similar period right now. No one wants to put a Trump bumper sticker on their car because it seems an invitation to vandalism.

Siva is accused of slashing the tires of a Ford Focus and pouring yogurt into the car’s open sunroof while it was parked at a Gig Harbor Fred Meyer.

Police say Siva told them he attacked the vehicle because of the Trump sticker on the rear bumper. Siva allegedly told police he considered the sticker a “hate symbol” and vandalizing the car “improved the community.”

The victim of the crime is considered to be at fault because his bumper sticker was a “hate symbol.”

Rioters at the Trump rally in Costa Mesa California this week felt the same way. They showed their anger in obvious ways.

Protest organizers in Southern California said the anti-Trump demonstrations spread through word of mouth and involved mostly young people, including many high school and college students. They brought with them Mexican flags, which were once discouraged at immigrant rights rallies for fear they would be regarded as un-American.

The demonstrations outside the Pacific Amphitheatre in Costa Mesa on Thursday night blocked traffic and caused tense moments. Some protesters performed screeching burnouts in their cars or did doughnuts at intersections. Others kicked at and punched approaching vehicles, shouting expletives. Ranchera and hip-hop music was blasted throughout the streets. At least 17 people were arrested, and both a Trump supporter and a teenage anti-Trump protester were hurt.

No mention of payment but many of us believe these “demonstrations” are being funded.

What is particularly interesting to me is who is attending these rallies ?

I would like to have attended but I worked that day and was heading home when I heard about it. It was too late and I am not up to that much excitement at my age, anyway. What were the people waiting in line to attend like ?

As noted, the most interesting part of the rally proved the demographics: it was probably 60% women. Lots of minorities as well, plenty of people holding “Latinos for Trump” signs. It was a good mix of African-American, Asian, White, and Hispanic–everybody got along well. Over the loudspeaker, we kept hearing somebody saying over and over that if we saw protestors in the crowd, please do not touch them or say anything to them, just alert security by yelling “Trump! Trump! Trump!” Initially, I thought this was ridiculous, but it worked. Random protestors would get in with the rally crowd and start yelling, and folks would shout, “Trump! Trump! Trump!” The very efficient security personnel would escort the protestors out. No violence.

Doesn’t this sound like the Tea party rallies in 2010 ?

The national polls now show closer numbers and Rasmussen has them tied. Given what I believe is a Bradley Effect, in which people being polled may conceal their real choice to avoid being labeled bigoted by a pollster, I think we might be looking at a Trump landslide. I have wondered if he would implode at some point but I don’t see it.

I really hope the GOP Convention is not attacked by rioters and I do worry about assassination attempts but we will see how this goes on.

Feminism and Victimhood Culture.

Friday, April 8th, 2016

We are living an age when any reference to women runs the risk of violating the “victimhood” rights of feminist women.

What is “Victimhood?” It was explained by two sociologists in 2014.

We’re beginning a second transition of moral cultures. The first major transition happened in the 18th and 19th centuries when most Western societies moved away from cultures of honor (where people must earn honor and must therefore avenge insults on their own) to cultures of dignity in which people are assumed to have dignity and don’t need to earn it. They foreswear violence, turn to courts or administrative bodies to respond to major transgressions, and for minor transgressions they either ignore them or attempt to resolve them by social means. There’s no more dueling.

The “Honor Culture” requires that one avenge insults to preserve honor. The law and third parties are avoided and this culture is typical of areas where law and authority is mostly absent. A classic example is the American West in the Age of the Frontier. As law and authority became available, the culture gradually changed to one of The Culture of Dignity in which people are assumed to have dignity and don’t need to earn it. They foreswear violence, turn to courts or administrative bodies to respond to major transgressions, and for minor transgressions they either ignore them or attempt to resolve them by social means. There’s no more dueling. Lawyers have made this culture ubiquitous, even in war.

Now, we have a new phenomenon.

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Unions and the march of robots.

Wednesday, March 30th, 2016

port
California has now decided to impose a a $15 per hour minimum wage on its remaining business economy.

Denial of consequences is an important part of left wing philosophy.

“California’s proposal would be the highest minimum wage we have seen in the United States, and because of California’s sheer size, it would cover the largest number of workers,” said Ken Jacobs, chairman of the UC Berkeley center. “This is a very big deal for low-wage workers in California, for their families and for their children.”

Implicit in all the assumptions is the belief that employers will not adjust by reducing the number of minimum wage employees they have.

The UC Berkeley estimate also includes some who earn slightly more than the lowest wage and stand to benefit from a ripple effect as businesses dole out raises to try to maintain a pay scale based on experience, Jacobs said.

If Brown’s plan passes, 5.6 million low-wage workers would earn $20 billion more in wages by 2023, according to the UC Berkeley analysis. It assumed no net jobs would be lost as businesses look to trim costs.

The experience in other places has not been positive.

Even a former chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, Alan Krueger, has cautioned recently that “a $15-an-hour national minimum wage would put us in uncharted waters, and risk undesirable and unintended consequences.”

Krueger is the economist whose “study” of the effect of minimum wage increases in fast food industry has been debunked as invalid.

But Card and Krueger’s conclusion is that there’s no effect, not that increases in the minimum wage increase employment as a general rule. “We believe that this research provides fairly compelling evidence that minimum-wage increases have no systematic effect on employment,” they write in their 1995 book, “Myth and Measurement: The New Economics of the Minimum Wage.” They also write, “On average, however, our findings suggest that employment remains unchanged, or sometimes rises slightly, as a result of increases in the minimum wage.” It would be fair for Hanauer to cite the individual studies showing an increase in employment, but to characterize Krueger and Card’s work on a whole as showing an increase in employment resulting from a minimum wage increase is inaccurate.

In less polite terms, it’s bunk ! Newer studies with better methods have shown That employment is reduced.

Second, the studies that focus on the least-skilled groups provide relatively overwhelming evidence of stronger disemployment effects for these groups.

Now, we come to the larger issue the entire “Blue Model” of employment and politics.

The teachers’ unions won a temporary victory to force non-members to pay “agency fees” involuntarily, a decision that resulted from the death of Antonin Scalia last month.

With the absence of the late Antonin Scalia’s reliably-conservative vote, labor unions clenched an unexpected Supreme Court victory on union fees for government workers.

With agency fees – and the structure of union dues – remaining intact, union leaders hailed the court’s affirmation but warned there could be further challenges ahead.

The union case is among a handful of key disputes in which Scalia’s vote was expected to tip the balance toward a result that favored conservatives.

Some non-union teachers in California sued over the fair share fees, claiming that the fees are unconstitutional and violate their freedom of speech and association.

That decision will probably stand until a new Justice is confirmed and a Hillary Clinton presidency would keep the matter going. What about the rest of the world ?

But in the larger context the public unions greatest enemy isn’t the ghost of Antonin Scalia but the onslaught of technology. Recently, the mighty International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) was forced to let giant robots handle cargo in the port of Los Angeles. “At one of the busiest shipping terminals in the U.S., more than two dozen giant red robots wheeled cargo containers along the docks on a recent morning, handing the boxes off to another set of androids gliding along long rows of stacked containers before smoothly setting the boxes down in precise spots,” wrote the Wall Street Journal. “‘We have to do it for productivity purposes, to stay relevant and to be able to service these large ships,’ said Peter Stone, a member of TraPac’s board.”

About ten years ago the Longshoreman’s union struck the port of Los Angeles to try to keep out GPS devices to locate containers.

Traditionally, clerks had climbed around containers to identify them and mark their location. Like Luddites in the 18th century, they attempted to keep their 80 jobs by paralyzing the worlds busiest port.

The union says that over 51 permanent positions have been lost to outsourcing in recent years — a claim that the Harbor Employers refutes. According to the Harbor Employers, those 51 individuals either “retired with full benefits, quit, or passed away during the past three years.”

It is unclear when the strike will end but the Port of LA is urging both sides to come to an agreement promptly for the sake of international commerce.

But the union says the workers are standing up to some of the world’s largest shipping lines to protect the future of American jobs in the industry. “We just reached the point where somebody had to stand-up and draw the line against outsourcing, because these companies will eventually take all the good jobs,”said Fageaux.

According to its website, the Port of Los Angles is responsible for 1.2 million jobs in California and 3.6 million jobs across the country.

No matter. Those 51 jobs were important !

Eventually, the union lost. Now new troubles are coming.

In the end, even those advantages proved insufficient to stop automation. There will be pressure to deploy more robots. The “TraPac site is one of only four cargo terminals in the U.S. using the technology. That is fewer automated terminals than there are at the Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands alone.” The ILWU is fighting a rearguard action; its members are training on automated terminals “to ensure there’s a future for the workers”. And probably to keep alive the possibility of paralyzing the docks via strike by console operators.

None of this can disguise the fact is that the glory days of union crane jobs are over. The CEO of Carl’s Jr, a hamburger chain, predicts that fast food restaurants of the near-future will have no human employees. A special report in the New York Times says “the robots are coming to Wall Street.”

Within a decade … between a third and a half of the current employees in finance will lose their jobs to … automation software.

Already, CAT scans are read by radiologists in India. Radiologists who have no local credentialing and who are unknown. All X-rays now are digital and can be transmitted across the world.

For the poor the citizenship deal is votes in exchange for welfare or sinecures. For the financially better off it is campaign contributions in exchange for crony capitalist opportunities. The Friedrichs vs California Teachers Association is an example of the latter, with the Supreme Court unable to reject a transaction that is ultimately unsustainable.

Technology may have changed the debate around closed union shops, quotas, identity politics and mandatory minimum wages from one of ideology to economics. What’s the use of ideological policies, if they’re can’t deliver the goods? If the public employee’s unions can do no better at protecting their fiefdom than the ILWU, if immigrants from Mexico can find no employment because robots are doing all the work then what will the politicians promise?

Yes. What can they promise ?

What I saw at the Revolution.

Monday, March 21st, 2016

Zulu Dawn

News from the front today. First, Glenn Reynolds explains where Trump came from.

The thing is, we had that movement. It was the Tea Party movement. Unlike Brooks, I actually ventured out to “intermingle” with Tea Partiers at various events that I covered for PJTV.com, contributing commentary to the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Examiner. As I reported from one event in Nashville, “Pundits claim the tea partiers are angry — and they are — but the most striking thing about the atmosphere in Nashville was how cheerful everyone seemed to be. I spoke with dozens of people, and the responses were surprisingly similar. Hardly any had ever been involved in politics before. Having gotten started, they were finding it to be not just worthwhile, but actually fun. Laughter rang out frequently, and when new-media mogul Andrew Breitbart held forth on a TV interview, a crowd gathered and broke into spontaneous applause. A year ago (2009), many told me, they were depressed about the future of America. Watching television pundits talk about President Obama’s transformative plans for big government, they felt alone, isolated and helpless.

Bingo !

Now, we have Act Two. Will Hillary’s “Thin Blue Line of rust belt states hold ?

Lt William Vereker, on a routine patrol from the British camp at Isandlwana looked down into the Ngwebeni valley to find it boiling with the hitherto unseen main Zulu Army of 20,000 men.

As in 1879 the political scouts are rushing back to inform the camp of the unanticipated development. Shocked but still undaunted, the pundits remain confident that the threat can be stopped by the Democrat “Blue Wall” in the industrial and upper Midwest. There, media artillery and the technologically superior liberal ground game are expected to hold the line against the angry white voter.

Read the rest, as Glenn says.

Now, we have the horrified GOPe. To Peter Wehner, Trump is the scary black face in the forest.

It is stunning to contemplate, particularly for those of us who are lifelong Republicans, but we now live in a time when the organizing principle that runs through the campaign of the Republican Party’s likely nominee isn’t adherence to a political philosophy — Mr. Trump has no discernible political philosophy — but an encouragement to political violence.

Mr. Trump’s supporters will dismiss this as hyperbole, but it is the only reasonable conclusion that his vivid, undisguised words allow for. As the examples pile up, we should not become inured to them. “I’d like to punch him in the face,” Mr. Trump said about a protester in Nevada. (“In the old days,” Mr. Trump fondly recalled, protesters would be “carried out in a stretcher.”)

OMG! What happened to “hit back twice as hard!” or “Bring a gun to a knife fight?” Rudeness will not be tolerated in the GOPe.

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The Chicago riot and a long hot summer.

Saturday, March 12th, 2016

trump rally

Last night, the Trump rally in Chicago after rioters invaded the hall and threatened to rush the stage.

Last night saw unprecedented scenes inside the University of Illinois at Chicago Pavilion between an anti-Trump mob and Chicagoans who came to hear the Republican front-runner speak.
While outside, an impatient group of thousands more massed. Temperatures rose.
Multiple law enforcement sources told DailyMail.com that there was a credible threat against Trump from groups of protesters who planned to storm the stage.

I watched some of the TV coverage and the protestors seemed to be a combination of blacks and white “Bernie” sign carrying student age people. There were a few fist fights but the vast majority of the capacity crowd filed out peacefully and drove home. I was struck by the quiet cooperation of the rally goers and the taunting celebration of the rioters.

This will be a long hot summer. Last weekend saw 22 shootings in Chicago’s black neighborhoods. St Louis saw protestors at that Trump rally and there is another big rally scheduled in Ohio tonight.

The political world holds its breath for Saturday’s Ohio rally after Donald Trump’s Chicago event last night went into melt down after bloody brawls and loud demonstrations broke out, amid simmering racial tensions.
As the dust settles in Chicago, hundreds gather in Wright Brothers Aero Hangar for the Republican candidate’s first official address since last night’s fracas.
Supporters were queuing from midnight last night, according to local reports, where there is a heavy police presence and the venue is said to be ‘at capacity’.
Today’s event is arguably the most anticipated of the entire primaries following yesterday’s unprecedented scenes.
The Donald tweeted this much-needed message of encouragement as the crowds anticipate his arrival: ‘The rally in Cincinnati is ON. Media put out false reports that it was cancelled. Will be great – love you Ohio!’

It will be interesting to see if the rioters can create the same disturbance. In Chicago, local politicians helped organize the riot.

Bernie-Sanders-supporters-Chicago-pic

Yes, it did and some of them are elected officials. Some are old experienced terrorists, like Bill Ayres who was there.

Ted Cruz managed to look creepy.

Ted Cruz: Ted Cruz is responding to Donald Trump’s cancellation of his Chicago rally, saying the billionaire has created ‘an environment that encourages this sort of nasty discourse.’ The Texas senator is calling it a ‘sad day.’
He says, ‘Political discourse should occur in this country without the threat of violence, without anger and rage and hatred directed at each other.’
Cruz says blame for the events in downtown Chicago rests with the protesters but ‘in any campaign responsibility starts at the top.’
Cruz says, ‘When the candidate urges supporters to engage in physical violence, to punch people in the face, the predictable consequence of that is that is escalates. Today is unlikely to be the last such incidence.

An invitation ?

More on where Trump came from.

Monday, March 7th, 2016

There is increasing panic among the GOPe about the possibility that Trump could win the nomination. The “Anyone But Trump” fixation is obsessing the usual suspects.

Megan McArdle: As I see it, there are basically three strategies you can follow:

Anyone but Trump: It doesn’t matter, as long as you vote against Trump. Democrats in open primary states can play, too.
Vote the leader: Pick the winner in your state, and force the nomination selection to the convention.
Attempt to generate an actual alternative front-runner by voting for the national poll leader, or the most plausible candidate — probably Marco Rubio, given that he seems to have the most support from the highest number of GOP coalitions, but possibly Ted Cruz, since he appears to be the next most appealing to Trump voters.
I’ll just start by asking: Which of these would someone follow if their main priority is to defeat Trump? Or am I thinking about it all wrong?

Sean Trende: No, I think you have it basically right. I actually think that, for now, their best chance lies behind Door No. 2.

Why are the elites so obsessed with keeping Trump away from the levers of power ? This is not limited to the USA. Germany is having its own voter revolt.

The anti-immigrant AFD – Alternative for Germany – party has scored massive gains in municipal weekend elections which reflect growing public anger at the refugee policies of Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The polls for councils in the state of Hesse saw the AFD make significant inroads on the two main established parties – Merkel’s conservative CDU and the centre-left SPD – to come in third with 13.2 percent of the vote, knocking the environmental Greens into fourth place.
Frankfurt CDU politician Markus Frank said: ‘The preliminary result of the AfD is frightening. I had expected a maximum five percent.’

Where does this voter anger come from ?

Maybe it is one manifestation of the Principle Agent Problem.

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Romney’s speech

Thursday, March 3rd, 2016

romney

I did not watch Romney’s speech attacking Trump but have seen short excerpts and comments about it. I think it was a catastrophic mistake by Romney and has ended any future he might have in the GOP. Had he stayed neutral, with perhaps some comments about what is important in a Republican president, his role might be intact. But nobody, especially Mitt, can out insult Trump. It was a foolish lapse of judgement.

I read a blog every day written by a retired Foreign Service Officer, who calls it Diplomad 2.0, and it has commenters from other diplomatic services. His reaction to Romney’s speech is interesting.

I like Romney. I think him a decent man, and one who would have been a very good president. Our country and the West would be in much better shape today if Romney had won in 2012. I had a very minor role on Romney’s foreign policy team and did my best from my lowly position to get the campaign to sharpen its message on foreign affairs, especially on Benghazi–to no avail.

What follows is revealing in the explanation for Romney’s failure as a candidate.

His campaign was dominated by “the oh-so-clever-ones” who think things to death, and analyze until they paralyze. The papers we sent up to Romney were wordy “on the one hand, but on the other hand” expositions of little to no use in a campaign. They read like something written for a transition team, not a campaign team. It was impossible to get Romney’s main handlers to recommend that he go after Obama and Clinton hard on Benghazi and the rest of the misadministration’s foreign policy disasters. They thought that was “too politicizing” and “unbecoming.” Well, what happened, happened.

Romney now comes out and attacks the probably GOP nominee in terms he would never have used on Obama and probably Hillary.

The result ?

The punchline. I had been sitting uncomfortably on the fence re the GOP candidates. After listening to the Romney speech and the other “establishment” types, and hearing the anchor pundits, the pundit anchors, and all the other assorted wise ones, I have jumped off the fence. I have landed in Trump’s farm. He is not perfect, far from it. I might even change my mind, but for now I support Trump.

I don’t know if Trump will be terrible; I do know that what we have right now is horrible beyond words. I can’t bear the thought of a Hillary presidency.

I kind of feel the same way. Trump’s weakest point is foreign policy and here is a guy with years of experience all over the world, who thinks he is better than Hillary and might be OK.

The Transformation of Economics.

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

A great piece in the Wall Street Journal today about what has happened to Economics and Economics education.

I took an Economics class in college in 1957 and it changed me to a Republican. My first vote was for Richard Nixon in 1960. My family was furious as they thought we were related to the Boston Kennedys and they had always been Democrats. I wonder if an Economics class would have that effect today?

And that political economy and my assessment of it has changed over a career spanning more than half a century. Here are five developments I would emphasize:

I agree with his appraisal.

1.• Diminishing returns to research. A core economic principle is the Law of Diminishing Returns. If you add more resources, such as labor, to fixed quantities of another resource, such as land, output eventually rises by smaller and smaller amounts. That applies—with a vengeance—to academic research. Teaching loads have fallen dramatically (although the Education Department, which probably can tell you how many Hispanic female anthropologists there are teaching in Arkansas, does not publish regular teaching-load statistics), ostensibly to allow more research. But the 50th paper on a topic seldom adds as much understanding as the first or second.

This has been characteristic of Medicine, as well as other academic subjects.

Emory University’s Mark Bauerlein once showed that scholarly papers on Shakespeare averaged about 1,000 a year—three a day. Who reads them? How much does a typical paper add at the margin to the insights that Shakespeare gave us 400 years ago?

That isn’t he has shown.

The attitude touches the President’s favorite pastime. Tevi Troy reported in Commentary how much Obama enjoys television, particularly SportsCenter and the middlebrow series Homeland and Mad Men. The New York Times added Breaking Bad and The Wire in its article “Obama’s TV Picks: Anything Edgy, with Hints of Reality,” and while it warned of the foolishness of “psychoanalyzing” a president based on “the books he reads or the music he listens to or the television shows he watches,” the story mentions not a single book. One would expect Marxists, feminists, queer theorists, post-colonialists, anti-imperialists, and media theorists to chide Obama for his bourgeois, masculinist taste, but as far as I know they have remained silent.

Obama’s taste runs more to sports and rap music.

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A preference cascade is forming.

Friday, February 26th, 2016

trump

Glenn Reynolds has known about this for a long time.

“This illustrates, in a mild way, the reason why totalitarian regimes collapse so suddenly. (Click here for a more complex analysis of this and related
issues)
. Such regimes have little legitimacy, but they spend a lot of effort making sure that citizens don’t realize the extent to which their fellow-citizens dislike the regime. If the secret police and the censors are doing their job, 99% of the populace can hate the regime and be ready to revolt against it – but no revolt will occur because no one realizes that everyone else feels the same way.

Peggy Noonan has written about it several times.

But in my experience any nonpolitical person on the street, when asked who will win, not only knows but gets a look as if you’re teasing him. Trump, they say.

I had such a conversation again Tuesday with a friend who repairs shoes in a shop on Lexington Avenue. Jimmy asked me, conversationally, what was going to happen. I deflected and asked who he thinks is going to win. “Troomp!” He’s a very nice man, an elderly, old-school Italian-American, but I saw impatience flick across his face: Aren’t you supposed to know these things?

In America now only normal people are capable of seeing the obvious.

This is something I have been looking at for a while.

Can the GOP really be so out of touch with the legions of out-of-work Americans — many of whom don’t show up in the “official” unemployment rate because they’ve given up looking for work in the Obama economy? With the returning military vets frustrated with lawyer-driven, politically correct rules of engagement that have tied their hands in a fight against a mortal enemy? With those who, in the wake of the Paris and San Bernardino massacres by Muslims, reasonably fear an influx of culturally alien “refugees” and “migrants” from the Middle East?

I think it is. Today at Ann Althouse’s blog, I saw some interesting comments.

I don’t understand how it works to just crudely throw insults at Trump when your substance is that Trump speaks bluntly. David Begley, you, in particular, sound like the very problem you are trying to attack. Except your type of attack has been plainly unsuccessful, and Trump’s speech — whatever it is, however it is the same or different from yours — has been phenomenally successful. Don’t you think you need to analyze this communications problem? Or do you just spout simple insults that pop into your head? Is that what you imagine Trump is doing? Because you are wrong, and you don’t even bother to find out exactly how you are wrong. There is an art to blunt, clear, surprising speech. Most politicians don’t try to do it because it’s too hard to do right. At least KNOW that you’re not doing it right. Otherwise, this is just headslappingly stupid.

That was Ann to a commenter. An informed commenter who has attended quite a few public meetings of candidates in Iowa. The commenter responds:

AA

Just fighting fire with fire. Trump called Bush “low energy” and it worked.

Trump is a coward, four time bankrupt loser, con artist, bully, 12 time business failure, WWE character, hypocrite, liar, dullard, loose cannon and has very poor character. He will lose in November and people need to wake up to that fact. Otherwise, hello President Hillary.

I think Vietnam vets will especially be interested in Donald’s own personal Vietnam, as told to Howard Stern. Google it.

I just don’t think this is helpful although venting may be useful in the Kugler-Ross stages of grief that seems to be going on. If it gets too far into the potential pool of GOP staff candidates, it might cause harm as Trump might avoid people who seem to hate him and choose less competent people to staff an administration. More from Peggy.

They are figures in government, politics and media. They live in nice neighborhoods, safe ones. Their families function, their kids go to good schools, they’ve got some money. All of these things tend to isolate them, or provide buffers. Some of them—in Washington it is important officials in the executive branch or on the Hill; in Brussels, significant figures in the European Union—literally have their own security details.

Because they are protected they feel they can do pretty much anything, impose any reality. They’re insulated from many of the effects of their own decisions.

One issue obviously roiling the U.S. and western Europe is immigration. It is THE issue of the moment, a real and concrete one but also a symbolic one: It stands for all the distance between governments and their citizens.

It is of course the issue that made Donald Trump.

We are seeing the same thing in Britain, which has an even worse problem with immigrants.

in Britain, both London Mayor Boris Johnson and mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith have come out against staying in the EU. On this news, author Jim Bennett emailed me: “Are we seeing a preference cascade for Brexit? Although many are already for it, of course, mostly they have been either old-line Tories or working-class marginal malcontents. Boris and Zac are part of the rich, well-connected, cosmopolitan London set which has always been presumed to be Europhiles. Watch this phenomenon.”

It used to be, of course, that the lower and middle classes were stuffy and constrained by social convention while the freethinkers at universities and in the ruling class got to experiment with unconventional ideas. If their experimenting got enough success, then it might eventually filter down to ordinary people. (The sexual revolution worked this way, more or less).

That was Reynolds about the situation in Britain. We visited friends in Britain in September.

It seems that traditional English are self-segregating into smaller cities in the southeast that have sky high real estate prices, somewhat similar to Orange County prices in California. In both cases, I think they are islands of safety and traditional values in countries being over run by immigration and deteriorating urban cores.

Here is another attempt to explain Trump.

But all that is not enough to explain his sudden rise. The missing piece of the puzzle is the artificiality of public life in the United States. In a land of chain stores, internet memes, pop-culture formulas, and endless consultants, Trump has his own highly charged way of communicating. Whatever the topic, he attracts notice when he speaks.

He’s a successful entrepreneur with a brand he’s created for himself without the aid of pollsters, focus groups, or handlers. As such, his words and actions are of course designed for effect—he’s a pro-wrestling version of a politician rather than an Andrew Jackson or a Mr. Smith trying to go to Washington—but his calculations are his own. They reflect intuition and long experience rather than the advice of consultants, and he’s willing to provoke outrage. So the effect is wholly different from that of another candidate repeating commercially prepared talking points.

I agree with this. What are his points ?

So he’s not for sale, part of the club, or susceptible to pressure, and today that counts for everything. To put it differently, he seems his own man, and he’s not politically correct. That matters, not just as a selling point, but substantively, because p.c. is a serious matter. At first people thought it a joke, then an annoyance, and eventually a constant drag on life in general. Now, in the age of flash mobs that enforce insane beliefs by destroying careers, people are realizing that p.c. is much more than that.

In fact, political correctness is a genuine threat to any tolerable way of life.

I agree with this as well. We are in an era when Brendan Eich, a successful technology expert and founder of the Mozilla Corporation, can be forced to resign because he once donated $1,000 to Proposition 8 in California that would have restated the status of marriage as “between a man and a woman.”

Critics of Eich within Mozilla tweeted to gay activists that he had donated $1,000 to California Proposition 8, leading Eich to say on his blog that he was sorry for “causing pain” and pledged to promote equality at Mozilla. Gay activists created an online shaming campaign against Eich, with OkCupid declaring they would block access to the Firefox browser unless he stepped down. Others at the Mozilla Corporation spoke out on their blogs in his favor. Board members wanted him to stay in the company with a different role.

On April 3, 2014, Eich stepped down as CEO and resigned from working at Mozilla after it was revealed that he donated funds to a California Proposition 8 campaign whose objective was to ban gay marriage in California.

Actually, the language did not mention “gay marriage,” but stated “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California,”

The proposition passed with 52% of the vote and was overturned by a federal judge with a history of leftist activism, who later married his gay lover.

The 9th circuit, a well known leftist court, upheld the ban and Jerry Brown, then Attorney General, declined to appeal. The gay activist movement also pursued the LDS Church and any other supporters of the proposition they could identify. The reign of terror toward opponents of gay marriage has continued with lawsuits and fines imposed by bureaucrats on cake bakers who declined to participate in gay marriages. Wedding photographers have also been pursued and punished for declining to participate on religious grounds.

Today the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that Christian photographers cannot decline to participate in gay-marriage commitment ceremonies,even though that state does not have gay marriage and the court acknowledgedthat providing services for the ceremony violated the Christian’s sincerely-held, traditional religious beliefs. This becomes one of the first major cases where religious liberty collides with gay rights, and could now goto the Supreme Court of the United States.

And the “protected” wonder where Trump came from.

In other words, p.c. is Totalitarianism 2.0: a bureaucratic system, seemingly gentle, that possesses unlimited power over human attitudes, understandings, and relations, and feels called upon to use that power to construct a self-contradictory system of equal freedom and esteem. The attempt will fail, just as Bolshevism and Maoism failed, but it will do immense damage before it is given up.

One aspect of that attempt, which is responsible for much of Trump’s popularity, is a radical reduction in popular influence on government. If popular habits and understandings need constant transformation in ever more basic ways, because they always fall short of evolving standards of decency, they obviously shouldn’t guide public policy. That is for those who know better.

Political correctness itself, with its celebration of diversity and suppression of traditional distinctions, advances the cause in a fundamental way by suppressing social connections—family, inherited culture, religion—except for the bureaucratic and market arrangements through which the intended system would function. Those older arrangements are considered irrational, unequal, and uncontrollable, and they act as if they have the right to decide things, so why allow them any legitimacy? Why not get rid of them by multiplying incompatible versions of each and insisting they all have equal status?

I rest my case.