Free Markets, Free People

Politics

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I apologize for Tennessee’s Senator Squish – Lamar Alexander

I don’t get Tennessee politics, even though I’ve lived here almost my entire life. I watched the transition from Democrats to Republicans staring in the 1960s, and I’ve seen the state legislature become one of the most right-leaning in the nation.

In fact, Tennessee’s battle against a state income tax is often credited as being a proto Tea Party effort. A GOP governor (Don Sundquist), who ran promising there would be no income tax, tried to conspire with Democrats and GOP squishes to pass one surreptitiously. Marsha Blackburn’s reputation was made as the whistleblower that started the pushback, and eventually the measure was defeated. Despite gloom and doom predictions from the political establishment about how Tennessee was going to sink into the swamp (or something like that – I don’t really remember the details of their dire predictions) Tennessee has done quite well since then economically and fiscally.

So we have a pretty good limited government base here. Yet statewide offices always seem to go to squishes. Our current governor, Bill Haslam, has to be dragged along by the legislature to get anything done to reduce government power. One senator, Bob Corker, was instrumental in Obama’s sellout to Iran, and to my knowledge has never come out foursquare for anything that seriously advanced the cause of limited government.

And then there’s Lamar! (The exclamation point is a remnant of his failed presidential campaign in the 1990s.)

While governor of Tennessee, Alexander did put a few reforms in place that were moving in the right direction. His educational initiatives, requiring teachers to actually have a degree in something besides basket weaving and papier-mâché, were good.

But as Senator, he fancies himself as the wise old man “balancing everyone’s needs, blah, blah”, and has never come close to any serious limited government measures. In fact, when an establishment GOP member is needed to squishify an effort at limited government and halt its progress, Lamar! is often the volunteer.

Today’s example is over repeal of Obamacare. Lamar wants to decide precisely what the replacement will be before the repeal.

Moreover, there is already some intraparty turmoil over the repeal timeline, starting with Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee. He’s pressing to have a replacement plan ready before tackling repeal, which could significantly delay things, given that Republicans are far from a consensus on what kind of replacement they want.

The Tennessee Republican has notably began swapping the words “repeal and replace,” used by Republicans for years, to “replace and repeal.”

“There’s an eagerness to address it, so I think there’s no doubt we’ll start immediately to replace and repeal Obamacare, but the president-elect has said that the replacement and the repeal need to be done simultaneously, and that means to me that we need to figure out how to replace it before we repeal it,” he said.

As a Tennessean, I apologize that this squish is risking one of the most important steps the new GOP administration needs to take. Anyone who understand how things get done in DC, as Lamar most assuredly does, knows what this will do. The entire effort will be bogged down as Democrats and their media allies excoriate any Republican who intends to vote for repeal. Every special interest with any connection to healthcare will flood DC with every lobbyist they can hire.

If Lamar gets his way, the possibility of failure of repeal will be used as the lever to get everything the political class and their industry allies want in the replacement bill. It’s unlikely to be significantly better than Obamacare in the end

Now, as I said, Lamar has to know this! He’s not stupid, and he’s been in politics a lifetime. Therefore, he *wants* that feeding frenzy of special interests involved in the repeal. He wants to risk sabotaging repeal to get goodies in the replacement for his donors and buddies, and of course hopefully to get some praise from the New York Times and Washington Post as the “elder statesman bringing sanity to the process, etc. etc.”.

Lamar is hooked into all the big donors for the GOP in Tennessee, and a lot of those are in healthcare. Nashville and surrounding areas is one of the major healthcare business centers in the nation. Of course they want their place at the goodie table. And Lamar is all too happy to give it to them – it’s what he’s done the whole time he’s been in DC.

I hope Trump finds a way to get around this squish and his Senate allies. I have a feeling the Obamacare fight is going to set the tone for a lot of things to come. If the establishment GOP squishes find out they can sabotage any serious efforts at reining in government, that will be the pattern for the next two years at least.

There are now 2 sides in the culture war

A little history for you.  A professor has pinned down the origins of political correctness and my guess is it won’t come as much of a surprise to most of you:

“The notion of political correctness came into use among Communists in the 1930s as a semi-humorous reminder that the Party’s interest is to be treated as a reality that ranks above reality itself,” Dr. Codevilla writes in the Fall 2016 issue of the Claremont Review of Books.

Dr. Codevilla indicates that the politically correct directive began word-of-mouth as a running joke that communists told each other that went like this:

“Comrade, your statement is factually incorrect.”

“Yes, it is. But it is politically correct.”

Dr. Codevilla goes on to point out the purpose of PC:

“Why does the American Left demand ever-new P.C. obeisances?,” Dr. Codevilla asks. “In 2012 no one would have thought that defining marriage between one man and one woman, as enshrined in U.S. law, would brand those who do so as motivated by a culpable psychopathology called ‘homophobia,’ subject to fines and near outlaw status.”

“Not until 2015-16 did it occur to anyone that requiring persons with male personal plumbing to use public bathrooms reserved for men was a sign of the same pathology. Why had not these become part of the P.C. demands previously? Why is there no canon of P.C. that, once filled, would require no further additions? Because the point of P.C. is not and has never been merely about any of the items that it imposes, but about the imposition itself.

This is an ideological perversion that is rampant on the left.  You have no problem seeing it as the foundation of identity politics and all through academia which introduced it to a new generation and has been responsible for nurturing it to the extreme.  There is no question in the mind of any observer of PC that the intent is control.  The problem, of course, is as it gains more and more control  over the islands of its influence, it loses more and more touch with reality and the consequences of believing your echo chamber.  This election and it’s impact in those islands of delusion completely validate the point.

Secondly, the insistence on ideological conformity alienates huge swaths of the population that the left should be trying to woo and persuade.  Those people get tired of and eventually resent their concerns being trivialized, categorized as “xenophobic”, “homophobic” or “racist” and dismissed with an arrogant hand wave.

[T]he response to Trump radicalizes certain distressing and counter-productive intellectual tendencies and argumentative habits that were already all too common among liberals long before the election — tendencies and habits that contributed in important ways to Trump’s shocking triumph at the polls on Nov. 8.

I’m talking about the propensity of liberals to deem certain political opinions automatically illegitimate, out of bounds, and unacceptable.

Or said another way, the refusal of liberals – especially those stranded on their echo chamber islands (like academia) – to listen to the other side is killing them, politically.  But they refuse to listen and continue to believe that anything that doesn’t conform to the bubble’s PC code is trash.  Trash of the worst kind.  Vile trash.  Evil trash.  So sayeth the keepers of PC.

Here’s the chaser:

The urge toward exclusion is a perennial possibility of politics. That’s because politics takes place on two levels. On one level is the back and forth of partisan conflict, involving persuasion, argument, electoral battles, triumphs, and defeats. On this level, pretty much anything goes as long as it abides by the rules of the political game. But there’s also a second, more fundamental level of politics that involves a competition over who gets to set the rules, the boundaries of what is publicly acceptable, in the first place — and precisely where those boundaries will be positioned.

The most obvious example of second-order politics in the American system is the judiciary, and especially the Supreme Court. Until the Obergefell decision in 2015, for example, the American people were engaging in a free-flowing debate about same-sex marriage, with some people in favor of allowing it and others opposed, and public opinion shifting rapidly in the “pro” direction. That was politics conducted on the first level. But then the Supreme Court stepped in to declare gay marriage a constitutional right. That was second-order politics in action: Suddenly the rules were changed, with the “pro” side summarily declared the winner throughout the nation and the “anti” side driven — and permanently excluded — from the political battlefield going forward.

But second-order politics isn’t only found in the formal strictures of a Supreme Court ruling. It comes into play when prominent institutions in civil society (such as mainstream media outlets, universities, corporations, movie studios, and other arms of the entertainment industry) informally unite in deciding that an issue, or a specific position on an issue, is simply unacceptable because it crosses a moral line that leading members of these institutions consider inviolable. Over the past several decades, a range of positions on immigration, crime, gender, and the costs and benefits of some forms of diversity have been relegated to the categories of “racism,” “sexism,” “homophobia,” “white supremacy,” or “white nationalism,” and therefore excluded from first-order political debate.

If liberals want to understand why their power in the nation’s first-order political institutions has gone into such steep decline, they might want to consider the possibility that it is partially a reaction to the enormous power they’ve wielded in recent years at the second-order level.

While they may not understand that completely, they do seem to sense that their “second-order” politics is about to take a beating as well.  Americans traditionally resist those who attempt to impose their way on them.  They certainly resist being dismissed as some sort of monster because they disagree.

The election was more than a warning shot in the culture war.  It was a declaration that one-side doesn’t intend to meekly stand by and accept the PC shaming attempts of the other side.

And that, my friend, is a good thing for all.

~McQ

Danger – exploding heads!

I’m still laughing over the stunned looks on the MSNBC hosts faces last night.  The elite were steamrolled and they’re still trying to figure out why?  Let me give you two quick reasons:

  1. Hillary Clinton was a deplorable candidate (thought I’d toss the word “deplorable” at her since it was one she used to characterize the half of the US voting population she despises).  I cannot think of a worse candidate for any major party.  She almost lost to a back bench socialist, and would have, had the primary not been rigged.  She’s never, in her political life, had an approval rating above 48%.  Drop on the email scandal, the appearance of Justice Department manipulation and collusion in the investigation, not to mention Wikileaks and she was destined for the mat and a 10 count.
  2. Donald Trump, like Obama 8 years ago, was the beneficiary of the perfect political storm. How so?  This revolution on the right has been brewing for over 10 years.  The GOP was absolutely deaf to it.  The Tea Party really kicked it off and it worked hard to put GOP politicians in office that would take on the size of government and the out of control spending at a minimum.  Well it did that and what did these politicians do?  Nothing. They gave it lip service for a while, but in the end, they didn’t even try. Obama and the Dems, on the other hand, were expanding both the size and intrusion of government by every means available and continued to spend us into the poor house. The Republicans essentially colluded in this travesty.  Enter the primaries.  The constituency that makes up the right made it clear that establishment GOP members need not apply.  Donald Trump had figured that out and understood their frustration (Paul Ryan finally figured it out and said in remarks today, “Donald Trump heard a voice out in this country that no one else heard.” – Duh!). He appealed to that frustration.  The establishment GOP was clueless.

Result?  President-elect Donald J. Trump.

The Republicans – and the Democrats – got exactly what they had earned by ignoring the “deplorables”.

Certainly there are lots of other reasons that can be tossed on the pile.  But the obvious “demand for change” that was blithely ignored by the GOP is one of the majors.  Horrible Hillary was just the cherry on the top of the cake.

Then there’s this:

To suggest that Trump voters are worried about anything real is to invite scorn from certain corners of the mainstream media. The “economic anxiety” tweet, a special brand of sarcasm that mocks the suggestion that Trump supporters are buttressed by economic forces, has entered the online lexicon. Many cannot stomach the fact that people are driven to Trump by anything besides racism.

Yet the decline felt in certain corners of the country isn’t just about economics; it’s about every element of life — from family to life expectancy to the drugs that have infected communities. The feeling that so many of America’s opinion leaders see your concerns as the product of stupidity at best, or racism at worst, confirms the worst fears of many. They already worry that the coastal elites don’t care about them, and many among those elites seem happy to comply.

This was a total and complete repudiation of what are commonly known as the “ruling elites”.  They have been rebranded as the “out-of-touch elites” with this election.  They are as stunned as anyone.  Why?  Well the title to the article cited is “Life Outside the Liberal Bubble”.  It details why this victory by Trump has caught the left completely off guard.

And you ought to scroll through the rest of the NYT opinion pieces you’ll find on that linked page.  All full of gloom, doom, hate and angst.  Trump hasn’t even taken office and the world is ending.  If you think “Chimpy McBush Hitler” was bad, wait until the leftist hate machine gets over their shock and focuses on their newest target.

Oh, and Paul Krugman?

So we are very probably looking at a global recession, with no end in sight. I suppose we could get lucky somehow. But on economics, as on everything else, a terrible thing has just happened.

Because, you know, things didn’t turn out as another elite expected.  Whatta maroon.

Why were the elites so wrong?  Because people see the results of their meddling and are finally angry enough to do something about it.  And not just here.  Trump is just a beneficiary of that anger.  The anger has been boiling for quite some time:

What we have been seeing worldwide, from India to the UK to the US, is the rebellion against the inner circle of no-skin-in-the-game policymaking “clerks” and journalists-insiders, that class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy league, Oxford-Cambridge, or similar label-driven education who are telling the rest of us 1) what to do, 2) what to eat, 3) how to speak, 4) how to think… and 5) who to vote for.

But the problem is the one-eyed following the blind: these self-described members of the “intelligentsia” can’t find a coconut in Coconut Island, meaning they aren’t intelligent enough to define intelligence hence fall into circularities — but their main skill is capacity to pass exams written by people like them. With psychology papers replicating less than 40%, dietary advice reversing after 30 years of fatphobia, macroeconomic analysis working worse than astrology, the appointment of Bernanke who was less than clueless of the risks, and pharmaceutical trials replicating at best only 1/3 of the time, people are perfectly entitled to rely on their own ancestral instinct and listen to their grandmothers (or Montaigne and such filtered classical knowledge) with a better track record than these policymaking goons.

People are simply tired of the prescriptions of the self-described “intelligencia” with no skin in the game and no accountability for the usually dismal outcome of their prescriptions.  And they are deathly tired of the 1-5 listed above.  But they’re stuck, for the moment, with this group. They also know that government, because of its size and intrusiveness, is a problem not a benefit.  They hold these nabobs responsible and want out from under their “guidance” backed by government.  It’s not a far fetched wish and certainly not one I’m at all unsympathetic with.

However, the IYI still hold sway today.  We have one that shows up here every now and then to lend us his “expertise”:

The Intellectual Yet Idiot is a production of modernity hence has been accelerating since the mid twentieth century, to reach its local supremum today, along with the broad category of people without skin-in-the-game who have been invading many walks of life. Why? Simply, in most countries, the government’s role is between five and ten times what it was a century ago (expressed in percentage of GDP). The IYI seems ubiquitous in our lives but is still a small minority and is rarely seen outside specialized outlets, think tanks, the media, and universities — most people have proper jobs and there are not many openings for the IYI.

Beware the semi-erudite who thinks he is an erudite. He fails to naturally detect sophistry.

Sound like anyone we know?  Time for a purge.  Will a Trump presidency be the beginning of such a purge (and I mean purge in the most benign sense)?  Who the hell knows?

Finally, stay tuned for an avalanche of hypocrisy on the left as they start to gin up their opposition to all things Trump.  Executive orders, an Obama staple?  Taboo.  They’ll begin yammering about the sanctity of Congress … and the Constitution.  And they’ll be as obstructive as they can … that’s already the declared stance of one “progressive” group.  And you have to love those out there on the left claiming Trump has “no experience”!  Yeah, and the last guy just had a mountain of it, didn’t he?  At least Trump has “run something and done something”.  All Obama has “done” is head this country down hill in a free fall.

But enough.  Disclaimer – I did not vote for Donald Trump, nor Clinton, but I did vote.  My candidate of choice wasn’t especially attractive politically either.  But I could not find it in myself to enable either of the two top contenders.

Water under the bridge.  Georgia went exactly as expected – to Trump.  Now, given the fact that the country has spoken pretty emphatically, I wish him the best and hope like hell he can rise to the job.  Just as importantly I hope he can begin to unite and heal the divide this country now suffers – if the left will let him.

~McQ

2016 California Ballot Propositions

Once again, it’s time to look at the ballot propositions the special interests…er…voters of California have gotten on the ballot for the Voters to approve.

PROP 51: SCHOOL BONDS. 

Authorizes $9 billion in general obligation bonds for new construction and modernization of K–12 public school facilities; charter schools and vocational education facilities; and California Community Colleges facilities.

NO. California voters are suckers for every single school bond issue, even though it takes up most of the state budget, and we spend loads on schools. Which, essentially, graduate illiterates.

PROP 52: MEDI‐CAL HOSPITAL FEE PROGRAM.

Extends indefinitely an existing statute that imposes fees on hospitals to fund Medi-Cal health care services, care for uninsured patients, and children’s health coverage.

NO. This is a sleight of hand deal that keeps the fees, but removes the requirement that the $3 billon collected be spent on health care.

PROP 53: REVENUE BONDS.

Requires statewide voter approval before any revenue bonds can be issued or sold by the state for certain projects if the bond amount exceeds $2 billion.

YES. Not that it’ll do any good, given the voters’ propensity for approving bond measures, but ineffectual fiscal constraints are better than none.

PROP 54: LEGISLATURE. LEGISLATION AND PROCEEDINGS. 

Prohibits Legislature from passing any bill unless published on Internet for 72 hours before vote. Requires Legislature to record its proceedings and post on Internet. Authorizes use of recordings.

YES. The CA Democratic Party opposes it, so I assume it’s an unalloyed good. Also, it’ll stop last minute gutting and amending.

PROP 55: TAX EXTENSION TO FUND EDUCATION AND HEALTHCARE.

Extends by twelve years the temporary personal income tax increases enacted in 2012 on earnings over $250,000, with revenues allocated to K–12 schools, California Community Colleges, and, in certain years, healthcare.

NO. These increased taxes were supposed to sunset in 2018, but Democrats, being good Democrats, think they can spend your money better than you can. Beside, if you’re rich, you probably don’t deserve it anyway. Well, I say, screw the commie bastards.

PROP 56: CIGARETTE TAX TO FUND HEALTHCARE, TOBACCO USE PREVENTION, RESEARCH, AND LAW ENFORCEMENT.

Increases cigarette tax by $2.00 per pack, with equivalent increase on other tobacco products and electronic cigarettes containing nicotine.

NO. Go back to 1670, you self-righteous Puritan jerks. I don’t what’s worse, the Puritanism, or the greed to extract every possible cent they can from the populace. Oh, also, only 13% of the money goes to smoking cessation programs. The rest goes to health insurance companies.

PROP 57: CRIMINAL SENTENCES. PAROLE. JUVENILE CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS AND SENTENCING.

Allows parole consideration for nonviolent felons. Authorizes sentence credits for rehabilitation, good behavior, and education. Provides juvenile court judge decides whether juvenile will be prosecuted as adult.

YES. But kind of an ambivalent yes, because some “non-violent” offense classifications actually…aren’t. Overall, though, I’m not sure why non-violent offenders need to be kept in prison, so I’m for it, on balance, even though I know the CADoC will find some way to screw it up.

PROP 58: ENGLISH PROFICIENCY.

Preserves requirement that public schools ensure students obtain English language proficiency. Requires school districts to solicit parent/community input in developing language acquisition programs. Requires instruction to ensure English acquisition as rapidly and effectively as possible. Authorizes school districts to establish dual–language immersion programs for both native and non–native English speakers.

NO. Basically everything the paragraph above says is untrue. What it actually does is eliminate all of the restrictions on the legislature to alter California’s English-only policy. In other words, under the guise of preserving English-language instruction, it gives the legislature the power to repeal it by a simple majority vote.

PROP 59: CORPORATIONS. POLITICAL SPENDING. FEDERAL CONSTITUTIONAL PROTECTIONS.

Asks whether California’s elected officials should use their authority to propose and ratify an amendment to the federal Constitution overturning the United States Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

NO. Basically, this a proposition that authorizes the CA legislature to ask Congress to overturn Citizens United. California Democrats love this, because they’re stupid.

PROP 60: ADULT FILMS. CONDOMS. HEALTH REQUIREMENTS.

Requires adult film performers to use condoms during filming of sexual intercourse. Requires producers to pay for performer vaccinations, testing, and medical examinations. Requires producers to post condom requirement at film sites.

NO. Both the California Democratic Party and California Republican Party oppose this measure, because no one wants to see porn ruined. Oh, and also, no one wants to lose that nice porn tax money to Florida.

PROP 61: STATE PRESCRIPTION DRUG PURCHASES. PRICING STANDARDS.

Prohibits state from buying any prescription drug from a drug manufacturer at price over lowest price paid for the drug by United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Exempts managed care programs funded through Medi–Cal.

NO. In the real world, what will happen is that the price cuts the VA gets will simply disappear, and medicine prices for veterans will increase, rather than prices decrease for all Californians. The VFW, American Legion, AMVETS, and Vietnam Veterans of America all oppose it.

PROP 62: DEATH PENALTY.

Repeals death penalty and replaces it with life imprisonment without possibility of parole. Applies retroactively to existing death sentences. Increases the portion of life inmates’ wages that may be applied to victim restitution.

YES. I have no objection, philosophically, to the death penalty. But we do an awful job in California of imposing it. I don’t trust this state with the power to kill me.

PROP 63: FIREARMS. AMMUNITION SALES.

Requires background check and Department of Justice authorization to purchase ammunition. Prohibits possession of large–capacity ammunition magazines. Establishes procedures for enforcing laws prohibiting firearm possession by specified persons. Requires Department of Justice’s participation in federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System.

NO. This is another attempt to effectively repeal the 2nd Amendment. I will never compromise on this.

PROP 64: MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION.

Legalizes marijuana under state law, for use by adults 21 or older. Imposes state taxes on sales and cultivation. Provides for industry licensing and establishes standards for marijuana products. Allows local regulation and taxation.

YES. Being of a libertarian bent, I don’t think it’s any of the government’s damn business if I want to smoke vegetable matter. Oh, and the war on drugs has been a practical failure, and has done much to restrict liberty.

PROP 65: CARRYOUT BAGS. CHARGES.

Redirects money collected by grocery and certain other retail stores through mandated sale of carryout bags. Requires stores to deposit bag sale proceeds into a special fund to support specified environmental projects.

NO. So, this is confusing. In an effort to reduce plastic bag sales, the Legislature mandated that grocery stores sell paper carryout bags, but allowed them to keep the money from these sales. A “Yes” vote on this proposition would keep the bag requirement, but take away all the sales revenue and give it to the general fund. It’s another money grab by Commies.

PROP 66: DEATH PENALTY.

Changes procedures governing state court challenges to death sentences. Designates superior court for initial petitions and limits successive petitions. Requires appointed attorneys who take noncapital appeals to accept death penalty appeals. Exempts prison officials from existing regulation process for developing execution methods.

NO. The opposite of Prop 62, this initiative will make killing convicts a bit easier and quicker. So, I guess we’ll see if Californians want the state to stop killing people, or do it faster. Or—and this is possible—both. (Though, obviously, if Prop 62 passes, this proposition becomes irrelevant, even if it passes.)

Prop 67: BAN ON SINGLE–USE PLASTIC BAGS.

A “Yes” vote approves, and a “No” vote rejects, a statute that prohibits grocery and other stores from providing customers single–use plastic or paper carryout bags but permits sale of recycled paper bags and reusable bags.

NO. I use these plastic bags to clean dog poo from my back yard.  A “Yes” vote means each bag will cost me ten cents. Screw that. Oh, and food poisoning from reusable cloth/paper bags will kill some number of children and elderly people each year.

That’s this election’s ballot measures, and glimpse into what political life is like in California.

Less than five months before this program terminates

While Not AmericaDestroyed
   AndAlso Date.Now.Compare(#20170120#) < 0
      Golf.Play(GolfRoundType.NineHoles)
      Media.WhineTo()
      TerroristCaptives.ReleaseNext()
      IllegalImmigrants.Add(100,000)
      ForeignPolicy.Cave(Regime.Iran)
      ForeignPolicy.Cave(Regime.China)
      ForeignPolicy.Cave(Regime.Russia)
      Mirror.Preen()
      CheckStatus(AmericaDestroyed)
End While

It looks like the AmericaDestroyed flag isn’t going to quite make it to true before termination by the date condition.

Apologies to any of you Java or C# devs. I still use Visual Basic as my main language. Besides, it’s a bit easier for non-developers to follow.

Billy

An update to my discussion about our presidential candidate Hildroid Clintabot

Four days ago, I gave my unserious take on our presidential election, including the explanation that I couldn’t support the android candidate for the Democrats. I mentioned that her honesty and humor modules seemed to have problems.

After that, the candidate admitted to having a short circuit. A surprising admission for a robot, but perhaps it was a side effect of an attempt to fix her honesty module. She also admitted to an intention to raise taxes on the middle class, which seems odd when many middle class taxpayers currently send almost half of what they make to various levels of government. I find it hard to believe that middle class taxpayers want to send even more. Again, perhaps the attempted fixes to the honesty module are responsible.

The reptilian alien candidate lost little time seizing on these admissions:

In addition to the earlier faults I mentioned in the android’s programming, it appears that the stair-climbing module is quite buggy:

It’s been a problem for a while, apparently:

 

HillaryFallingProblems

I’m sure the DNC’s has a team of programmers and engineers feverishly attempting to fix or hide these flaws.

The wages of Socialism

“Wages” being a euphemistic term in this case:

Home to the world’s worst economy, Venezuela is beset by severe food shortages, riots in the streets and hyperinflation that’s closing in on 700 percent. World oil prices have plummeted — and Venezuela relies on oil for 95 percent of its income.

Agriculture was neglected as Chavez and Maduro placed all their economic chips on crude and elected to import goods from abroad while spending on social programs that rallied the poor behind the government.

But now Venezuela has no cash to import food or other essentials. And because Chavez nationalized so much industry, it has no private sector to compensate.

So Maduro has now issued an executive decree that subjects all workers to being forced to work for 60 days (or more, “if circumstances merit”) in the fields, growing badly needed food.

Economically, the move makes no sense. Morally, it’s barely one step up from government-sanctioned slavery.

And there’s a Senator from Vermont that would love to see the system that is sliding into slavery at work here.  More intriguing is the fact that there are studies out that say that Sanders should have won the primary election that was apparently fraught with fraud and rigged from the beginning.  Think about that for a minute.

What does that say – other than total ignorance – about those who felt it was a good idea to “feel the Bern”?  Not that Bernie would have had much success in passing and implementing his programs.  I’m simply making the point that a significant portion of our population thought this potential tyrant was the best choice because – historic blinders, ignorance or both.  Not that anyone is getting a particularly better deal with the two nominees of record (one a crook and the other a clown).

What continues to puzzle me is how Venezuela, which is in the news every single day and pretty much implemented every one of Bernie Sanders policies and programs, is ignored so resolutely by these people.  How do you do that and call  yourself intellectually honest?

But considering their second choice, honesty – intellectual or otherwise – doesn’t seem to be much of a priority.

So there’s that …

~McQ

Hillary’s challenge from the even farther left

How unattractive a candidate is Hillary Clinton?  Well, first she’s not the first female to nominated for president by a US political party (you have to put “major” in front of “political party” for that to be true and only if you think that difference matters).  The Green Party has been doing it for years.

Speaking of the Green Party, this is how unattractive a candidate Clinton is … among her own kind:

Now that Hillary Clinton has officially won the Democratic presidential nomination, chances are we’re going to hear a lot more about Jill Stein. The Green Party candidate, currently polling in the low single digits nationally, has been gunning for the support of disaffected Bernie Sanders fans, urging them to “keep the revolution going” by getting behind her own long-shot White House bid. Tuesday, she was on hand at the Democratic convention to meet aggrieved Sanders delegates, some of whom formed a small crowd around her to chant, “Bernie or Jill.” Thanks to progressive grassroots rage, she may well peel off a few percentage points of the vote come the fall, when she’s expected to be on the ballot in about 47 states.

That would be lovely.  In fact, I’ve read in more than one place that votes for the Johnson/Weld libertarian ticket might actually find votes on both sides of the political spectrum, those from the left coming from “dissatisfied Democrats” who can’t stomach Clinton. How bad is it when the chosen candidate (she was certainly not “elected”) can’t even dampen the fire of contention in her own party?

And, finally, a recent poll found Clinton’s unfavorable rating to be atmospheric in relation to other presidential candidates in recent presidential elections.  Like not even close!

Look, we all know Stein is Sanders in a skirt.  An unrealistic, economically illiterate Socialist platform based on wishes, hopes, unicorns and rainbows.  But frankly, if it’s enough to siphon off votes from Clinton, I say let the unicorns stampede.

This could end up being a very interesting election after all.

~McQ

Awaiting Act II of the charade called “democracy”

Act II, of course, being the Democratic National Convention where the fix was in from the beginning for the chosen son, or in this case witch.

Everyone expected the RNC to be a circus, but this particular convention promises to take the cake.  Thus the 4 mile fence they’ve built around the venue to keep the plebs at a distance.

So, Democratic voters, you really thought you had a role in all of this?  Bwaahaaahahaha.  You hadn’t a chance of deciding.  Your vote was simply part of the stage props necessary in the attempt to keep the facade of “democracy” alive.  The Superdelegates picked long before the first vote was cast had already decided the contest.  You were window dressing.

And I have to tell you, I am loving the Wikileaks DNC email dump.  Latinos are part of the “Taco Bowl” constituency.  Just shut up, grab a burrito and vote for Hillary.  They’ll ignore you later.

Meanwhile, it appears “Clinton, Inc.” is having a pre-move in sale:

The documents, which were circulated among top DNC officials in April, could raise legal questions for the party, says Ken Boehm, the chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, a government watchdog group.

“The disclosed DNC emails sure look like the potential Clinton Administration has intertwined the appointments to federal government boards and commissions with the political and fund raising operations of the Democratic Party,” Boehm told The Daily Caller.

“That is unethical, if not illegal.”

The claim now circulating is the DNC server was hacked by Russia.  But Hillary’s server?  As safe as the gold in Ft. Knox, rest assured.

What a world we live in.  We have two of the worst candidates – that’s right, there is no “lesser of two evils” this time – running for a job in which they’ll each try to outdo the current worst president the US has ever suffered under.

As for the profession of “journalism”, you know what to expect:

At the beginning of the Republican National Convention last week, NBC Today co-host Matt Lauer confronted presidential nominee Donald Trump about dialing down the intensity of the passions percolating at the event. “Would you be willing to make a pledge to speak to everyone involved in this convention and say, ‘Please tone down the rhetoric’?” Lauer urged. “Can you say to the people who are going to take to that podium this week, ‘No personal attacks, no vitriol, keep it civil?”

The irony there is that political journalists themselves, Lauer included, have become as inflammatory as the politicians they lecture about incivility. In the aftermath of last month’s Orlando terrorist massacre at a gay nightclub, for example, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper badgered the increasingly offended Attorney General of Florida interminably about her stance on gay marriage. More recently, Fox News’ Shepherd Smith berated Gov. Bobby Jindal for using the “divisive” phrase “All lives matter.” CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, who wears her biases as openly as her keffiyeh, hammered away contentiously at British MP Daniel Hannan for nine minutes over the recent Brexit vote.

Screw it.

~McQ

Vote Properly, You Virulent Racist!

It’s been interesting watching the commentary about the British electorate’s choice to Leave the European Union. In many ways it reflects the pre-Brexit arguments of the Remain camp, which was essentially that all right-thinking people should vote remain and that those who didn’t were just racists and nationalists. That sort of analysis has even leaked into supposedly non-political outlets like Jalopnik, one of whose stories about Boris Johnson’s checkered career as an automotive journalist began with this:

Boris Johnson, the flop-haired ex-mayor of London, has been an outspoken supporter of Brexit, or however you call the thing where old scared racist people in the UK want to keep brown people out of their country and think that ditching the shitshow that is the EU is going to help them with that.

Well, there you go. A perfectly condescending dismissal of any idea that leaving the European Union had any intellectual support at all.

Less blunt was the New York Times, who began an article about the residents of Sunderland, a strongly Labour constituency in northern England that voted overwhelmingly for Leave, thusly:

Sunderland stunned the country when voters overwhelmingly opted to leave Europe in Thursday’s referendum, by 61 percent to 39 percent. It was a far higher vote for Britain’s exit than pollsters had predicted, and it was the first sign that Prime Minister David Cameron’s gamble on staying in the bloc had lost.

Sunderland’s citizens seem to have voted against their own interests. Not only has the city been a big recipient of European money, it is also the home of a Nissan car factory, Britain’s largest, and automobiles produced there are exported, duty free, to Europe.

The citizens of Sunderland seemed not to have been impressed by this or other advantages, such as:

They can swim at the Sunderland Aquatic Center, a £20 million project with an Olympic-size pool that the European Union helped finance. They can send their children to the sleek, modern Sunderland University campus, which also received union financing.

European Union money also helped establish Sunderland Software City, a business center that offers support and advice to aspiring software entrepreneurs.

Sounds great, except…

However splashy these projects may be, they remain largely inaccessible to Sunderland’s working class. Many cannot afford the £30 monthly fees at the Aquatic Center, and people in the nearby Washington neighborhood said they had never set foot inside.

As for Sunderland University, the tuition, which the government recently raised, is too much for many young people.

The article goes on to note that Sunderland has one of the highest unemployment rates in the UK.

So, how is voting Leave a vote against their interests? Well, let’s hand wave our way past that question, which, really, no right-thinking person would ask.

No, on second thought, let’s not, though to properly unpack this, we have to consider many things.

There’s a growing sense, not only in Great Britain, but in the US as well, that the elites, or the political class, or whatever you’d like to call them, are incompetent and have been leading us astray. And the response from elites is to call those criticisms illegitimate. Those doing the carping are assumed to be racists or nationalists, both of which, of course, are unpleasant, dirty types of people. Both the UK’s Leavers and the US’s Trumpers share some commonalities. Among them are skepticism over free trade and free immigration; concerns that elites dismiss as foolish and uneducated. And, of course racist.

But perhaps the Leavers weren’t so concerned with brown people because they were brown, but because they were concerned at seeing buses being blown up in London, British soldiers being beheaded in broad daylight in the High Street, and dozens of children being raped for years in Rotherham. Perhaps, the British people have come to wonder about immigration because many immigrants seem less interested in becoming British than they are in making Britain more like the Middle East. And, maybe, just maybe, the Leavers prefer to live in Britain, in the free and modern culture that has developed over the last 1,500 years, rather than go back to live in the year 692. Maybe they wouldn’t be any more interested in living in the 13th-century culture of Richard the Lion-Hearted any more than they are in living in the Dark Age culture of Middle Eastern immigrants.

When people come into your country from elsewhere, they don’t do so simply as fungible economic units, but as real people, who bring along cultural and political ideas that may conflict those that are traditional in your country. It is almost at the point where elites cannot even conceive of an argument that implies the superiority of one culture over another, so they dismiss this argument as nationalism and nativism. But, the thing is, a free society that continually imports immigrants who have no interest in individual liberty, religious freedom, and political pluralism, will eventually have none of those things. The problem isn’t race. It’s culture.

National sovereignty means something. At the very least, it means that the people of a country have the absolute right to restrict immigration to the sort of people that will, in their judgement, benefit the country, and, once the immigrants arrive, to force them to assimilate to the country’s national culture more than the country accommodates the culture of the immigrant. No obligation exists, in any sense whatsoever, that requires the people of a country to allow entry to immigrants who desire to transform the country into something different. It is entirely legitimate to reject calls for sharia in the UK, just as it’s entirely legitimate to be upset by seeing political protestors in the US waving Mexican flags or wearing “Make America Mexico Again” hats, explicitly letting us know where their primary political allegiance lies. Nor is it illegitimate to wonder why such people are in this country, and not in the corrupt shithole of a country that they so obviously prefer, yet so oddly fled.

Even on an economic level, questions of culture and country aside, people know whether they are better off today than they were 20 years ago. That’s true whether you’re an unemployed shipbuilder in Sunderland, or a textile worker in North Carolina, where about 650 textile plants closed between 1997 and 2009. A carpenter in Norwalk, CA, where low wages due to nearly uncontrolled immigration from Mexico and points south have made it impossible to raise a family on a tradesman’s salary, can see it happening, just as a plumber in Lincolnshire can see his wages drop as an influx of Polish tradesmen pour in.

One of the interesting demographic results of the Brexit vote was that people over 50 years of age were overwhelmingly in favor of Leave, while people under 30 just as keenly supported Remain. The standard explanation, as Jalopnik presented it, is simply that older people are reflexively racist against “the brown people”. Conversely, I submit that the older people have a breadth of perspective that enables them to judge what the country was like prior to submitting to the EU, compare it to the country’s situation today, and determine whether the result is an improvement. They’ve seen industry leave the north of England and an influx of immigrants who either don’t seem all that interested in becoming British or whose arrival has depressed wages for working people. Apparently, they’ve decided that’s not the Britain they were promised in 1975 or the one they want to leave to their children. Perhaps their children disagree, but those children have never had the opportunity to learn that things could be different. Indeed, they’ve been constantly taught the opposite by an education system and popular culture that characterizes Euroskepticism, as well as skepticism about free trade and unrestricted immigration, as aberrant and racist.

Now, it may be true that free trade is a net benefit. But even in the best of circumstances, such as assuming that NAFTA and the WTO are actually free trade agreements—a dubious assumption1—the benefits of free trade are widespread and diffuse, while the closure of textile plants and steel mills leave highly visible victims and long-term job losses for certain communities. That’s a political problem, not an economic one, and it’s one that elites haven’t addressed well. As a result, it’s biting them in the ass, whether it’s an unexpected Leave win for Brexit or an unexpected presidential nomination for Donald Trump. Remember, the Leave vote won even in the traditionally Labour-voting constituencies of northern England. Either working people don’t understand what’s going on in their own lives, or the promises of the elites haven’t been born out by their actual experience. Which is more likely?

But let’s go even further. Even if you could prove that, on balance, free trade is an unquestionable economic benefit, people might still prefer to be measurably poorer if that’s the price that must be paid to maintain their traditional social and political cultures. (This has even more relevance in the case of the EU, because the EU actually has power. Imagine if NAFTA had an unelected Commission in Ottowa or Mexico City that could impose laws on the United States.) Perhaps people don’t regard their economic interests as important as their national or cultural interests. It doesn’t matter what elite opinion thinks the people’s most important interests are. In a democratic society, ultimately, it only matters what the people think they are. People get to determine their own priorities, and not have them dictated by elites. The people get to answer for themselves the question, “In what kind of country do I want to live?”

Of course, I would argue that we don’t have truly free trade or, increasingly, a free economy in the United States. The Progressives  always look at the rising income inequality and maintain that it’s the inevitable result of capitalism. That’s hogwash, of course, and Proggies believe it because they’re dolts. But the problem in this country isn’t free trade—we have precious little of it—or unrestricted capitalism, since we have precious little of that as well. The issue behind rising income inequality isn’t capitalism, it’s cronyism. Income isn’t being redirected to the 1% because capitalism has failed, it’s happening because we abandoned capitalism in favor of the regulatory crony state and its de facto collusion between big business/banking interests and a government that directs capital to favored political clients, who become “too big to fail”. It doesn’t matter, for instance, whether the president is a Democrat or Republican, because we know the Treasury Secretary will be a former—and future—Goldman Sachs executive.

Indeed, what we call “free trade” nowadays isn’t the Theory of Comparative Advantage in action. It’s corporations being allowed to ship jobs to low wage countries overseas to offset the cost of regulatory burdens in the US that restrict competition from new entrants to the market. That works great for large corporations.  Not only do they get to offset the regulatory costs by overseas production, but slower job growth in the US flattens domestic wages, too, and sends millions out of the labor force altogether. For working people, the biggest financial rewards from the current “free trade” regime seem mainly reaped by large business and banking interests. Again, people know if their own lives are better or worse than they used to be, and if the promises of elites have been born out by their own experience.

The game is increasingly stacked against small business. We’ve made it harder and harder for working people to start or stay in business, restricted their access to finance and capital, and forced them to knuckle under to onerous regulatory burdens. Even with flat middle class wages keeping labor costs in check, the regulatory burden restricts small business formation. As a result, working people have begun begin to feel trapped. They see no way to improve their lives and they can see their own incomes stagnating—as middle class incomes have, in fact, been stagnating for at least 20 years.

Add to that the additional downward wage pressure that everyone agrees is the inevitable result of increasing the supply of labor through large-scale immigration. Then top it off with immigrants refusing to assimilate to culture of the host country in seemingly greater numbers. Now you have all of the necessary elements for a political revolt by the people the elite see as the rubes and hayseeds in flyover country. Rather than foreseeing and trying to ameliorate the results of these trends, the elite have chosen to ignore them at very least, or dismiss them with contempt at worst.

Most people, most of the time, are perfectly happy to let elites run the country. After all, it seems to make the elites happy to run run things, and as long as they’re reasonably competent at it, and do it reasonably unobtrusively, no one much seems to care. But when elite competence is compromised by faulty ideology and cronyism, people become unhappy. And when the elite response to complaints is dismissal or insult, political problems begin to bloom. People begin to think about politics. They begin to do things. It is no coincidence, as our Soviet friends used to say, that the last decade has seen the rise of the TEA Party, the Occupy Movement, and the Trump phenomenon. People of all political stripes are becoming unhappy.

I think we’re about to watch the elites start paying a price for their incompetence, inattention and contempt. Euroskepticism is on the rise elsewhere in Europe. If EU membership were put to a popular vote in the Netherlands, Spain, or Sweden, there is a good chance that Leave would win there, too. Indeed, it’s possible that a vote to leave the EU might even win in France, the nation for whom creating and strengthening the EU has been the primary policy goal for 60 years.

Perhaps the “Vote Remain, you virulent racist!” PR campaign for staying in the EU needs a bit more thought.

So, too, does the idea that Donald Trump supporters are all rubes and hayseeds. However much we might dislike the messenger, and Trump is certainly dislikable, and however slim his personal characteristics make his chance of winning the current election, the fact is that his message has gained much more ground than most thought possible a year ago. The key elements of that message are the same ones that resulted in a Leave vote in the UK. In the hands of a more astute politician, how much more effective would that message be?

I leave it to you to ponder the answer to that question.

___________________

1 By the way, free trade doesn’t require agreements and treaties. It just requires that government not interfere with trade. If there’s a treaty involved, you can be virtually certain that some industry is being protected.


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