Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Siren Song of Socialism

The very prolific Joel Kotkin writes a column for The Orange County Register examining reasons why Bernie Sanders' socialist ideas are resonating with millennials. As he accurately notes, the economic model is thoroughly discredited, now failing most spectacularly in oil-rich Venezuela.

The bottom line for Kotkin is that the U.S. economy isn't doing well for younger people. Too many of the young are un- or underemployed, burdened with college debt, and living with their parents.

Consequently, they are looking at "redistribution" - sticking their collective hand in my pocket - to solve their problems. Being almost entirely ignorant of history, they have no idea socialism has demonstrated conclusively it is not a way to share wealth, but only a way to share poverty, to stifle economic growth.


Socialism's Achilles heel is its basis in a mistaken understanding of human nature. It cannot work because it willfully misunderstands human motivation, which in truth is largely selfish.

Idealists don't want to believe most of us, most of the time, want to know "What's the payoff for my family?" If the answer is "Not much, the government will take most of what you earn," expect people to prefer leisure to hard work.

If nearly everyone prefers leisure to hard work, the result is economic stagnation. The economic "pie" to redistribute grows smaller and smaller, instead of larger and larger. As Margaret Thatcher famously said of socialism's core problem, "You run out of other people's money to spend."

A Milbank Misfire

Writing for The Washington Post, Dana Milbank accuses Ted Cruz of meaning "Jewish" when he says "New York values." This is the second time I've seen this allegation, the first time I shrugged it off. Let me tell you why.

As a junior faculty member I spent two years on loan to the Federal Government as what was then called a Federal Faculty Fellow. While in Washington I was teamed with an able New York native who embodied those infamous New York values. An Irish former Roman Catholic priest married to a former nun, he was certainly no Jew.

It's a set of aggressive, chip-on-shoulder, loud, semi-belligerent behaviors which are common in individuals from the region covering southwestern CT, downstate NY, and northern NJ.  My "partner" had it in spades, Donald Trump is a poster boy for it.

I suspect the behavior is ascribed by non-New Yorkers to Jews because many great Jewish comedians have joked about it. That, and the tendency of people to search for examples of "anti-Semitism."

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Understanding War

The Daily Beast's Nancy Youssef, writing about the relative success Russia is having in Syria, reports the following:
The frustration of watching Russia’s brazen, indiscriminate strikes in Syria’s commercial hub—which could potentially turn the war to Assad’s favor—was palpable in the halls of the Pentagon on Friday. Some were frustrated that Russia could have such an impact because it does not consider—or does not care about—the effect of its bombs on civilians. Still others call the potential fall of Aleppo a result of a failed U.S. approach.

“Russians understand war. Americans understand managing conflicts to get unsatisfactory results,” one official familiar with the U.S. military campaign told The Daily Beast. The approach of both nations “tells the region who the players are. America is feckless and Russia and Iran are reliable allies.”
Apparently, nobody in our decision-making apparat understands the rule "go big or go home." Hat tip to Power Line for the link.

Political Humor Alert

Friend Priscilla sends the following funny;

Bad News About Grandpa

An elderly man had a massive stroke and the family drove him to the emergency room.

After a while the ER Doctor appeared wearing a long face.

"I'm afraid Grandpa is brain-dead, but his heart is still beating."

"Oh, Dear God," cried his wife. "We've never had a liberal in the family before."

Good Candidate, Wrong Party

Journalist Michael Kinsley famously wrote, "A gaffe is when a politician tells the truth - some obvious truth he isn't supposed to say." Gaffe-prone Ohio Governor John Kasich, running for the GOP nomination and speaking to a fan in NH, is reported by CBS News to have uttered the following:
I ought to be running in a Democrat primary, I got more Democrats for me.
Ronald Reagan memorably said of his former politics, "I didn't leave the Democratic Party, it left me." Kasich refuses to understand the Republican Party has left him, he is an out-of-the-closet RINO.

Stray Thought

Ten percent of 2016 is already history. It will officially be spring in another 6 weeks.  Time flies when you're having fun, eh?

The Ferguson Effect Lives

Researchgate carries the abstract of research appearing in the Journal of Criminal Justice. Researchers, from the fields of sociology and criminal justice, looked at whether there is truly a "Ferguson Effect." As might be expected, they conclude:
Overall, any Ferguson Effect is constrained largely to cities with historically high levels of violence, a large composition of black residents, and socioeconomic disadvantages.
Translation: Yes, there has been a Ferguson Effect, most strongly where it would logically occur, in "cities with historically high levels of violence, a large composition of black residents, and socioeconomic disadvantages."

The authors fail to remind us that "high levels of violence, a large composition of black residents, and socioeconomic disadvantages" tend to occur together. It is rare for one (or two) of the three to occur without the others. Hat tip to RealClearPolicy for the link.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Birds of a Feather....

Writing in The Atlantic, Adia Harvey Wingfield makes an economic argument for the persistence of residential segregation. Basically, it is that whites are more likely to be able to provide intergenerational wealth transfers that enable their children to purchase homes in upscale neighborhoods. That, and their ability to network young whites into jobs are what she offers.

On the other hand, neither of those possibly quite real "white privilege" factors explains the patterns of residential segregation shown in the graphic with which The Atlantic illustrates the article (see caption for key). The graphic shows non-white Asians, Hispanics, and blacks are also segregated into ethnically homogeneous enclaves or neighborhoods. 

Economics doesn't explain why three supposedly discriminated-against groups don't mingle in terms of where they reside. Clearly they choose to live with their own kind. 

It's birds of a feather choosing to flock together, except the "birds" are human. Think "safe spaces" and comfort zones, things people naturally seek. In the absence of government assignment of residential spaces, expect residential segregation to persist, if not forever, at least for several decades.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Rice Bowl vs. Hammer

David P. Goldman, channeling Spengler, writes in the Asia Times about the meaning he draws from the Iowa caucuses. Goldman conceptualizes Ted Cruz as a post-Cold War conservative, in contrast to the neocons whom he identifies with their "godfather" - Irving Kristol.

Kristol is the father of today's William Kristol and, more importantly, of the National Review/Americn Enterprise Institute conservative establishment. This establishment doesn't like Cruz, and the feeling is mutual. About their relationship, Goldman snarks:
Cruz knows that the Establishment is naked, and is willing to say so. That’s why they don’t like him. They aren’t supposed to. They look at him the way a rice bowl looks at a hammer.
Kristol's columns in The Wall Street Journal were my introduction to conservatism, a bright light in the gloom of the bipolar Cold War world. It is hard to think badly of him, but it is possible the movement he helped found lost its way as the Cold War died and was replaced by the Long War.

I feel ready for an overt pursuit of our national interest, narrowly defined, and I'd like to think that's the approach favored by Cruz and Trump. And no, I don't believe all cultures are equally valid so I don't hold with multiculturalism. We'll see what happens.


Writing for RealClearPolicy, Preston Cooper shares the findings of a study he did for the Manhatten Institute. His key point, 2/3 of college students fail. His data:
Only 59 percent of four-year college students graduate within six years. Those who graduate face an additional hurdle — only 56 percent of recent college graduates work in a job that requires a college degree (though the figure for all college graduates is 67 percent, suggesting some underemployed graduates move up later in their careers).

Multiplied together, these numbers suggest that only 33 percent of students who enter college emerge with both a degree within six years and a relevant job soon after graduation.
Cooper treats the low graduation rate as a problem. Heretically, let me suggest that you view it instead as a feature.

A degree demonstrates to a potential employer the degree holder successfully completed a long and difficult task. Demonstrating that quality is no small accomplishment, it screens out the 41 percent who do not graduate.

Some 44 percent of college graduates work in jobs not requiring a degree. As Cooper notes it is often a result of poor choice of major. Students who make a self-indulgent choice, who major in underwater basket weaving, philosophy, psychology/sociology/anthropology, communications or women's/black/Asian/gay/Hispanic studies find their degrees singularly unhelpful in finding meaningful employment.

Again, this is a feature of the current arrangement, not a problem. Choice of major is a clear way to demonstrate practicality and a bottom-line orientation.

Most often employers seek employees who are task-oriented, not self-indulgent or impractical. The current arrangement pre-screens job applicants for industry and government.

Quote of the Day

Joshua Green, writing at Bloomberg Politics, about the Iowa caucus results.
Add Cruz’s 28 percent to Trump’s 24 percent, and more than half of caucusgoers supported an outsider openly despised by the GOP establishment.
Take that, GOP establishment. The base loves you not.

Obama, Bush "Legacies" Similar

Gallup reports a relatively dramatic shift in party affiliation during the 7+ years of the Obama administration. Hat tips to and Hot Air for the link.
Gallup's analysis of political party affiliation at the state level in 2015 finds that 20 states are solidly Republican or leaning Republican, compared with 14 solidly Democratic or leaning Democratic states. The remaining 16 are competitive. This is the first time in Gallup's eight years of tracking partisanship by state that there have been more Republican than Democratic states. It also marks a dramatic shift from 2008, when Democratic strength nationally was its greatest in recent decades.
Can you say "Pyrrhic victory?" On the other hand, the following are also true:
The 20 states that Gallup classifies as solidly Republican or leaning Republican account for 152 electoral votes, less than the 187 accounted for by the 14 solidly or leaning Democratic states plus the heavily Democratic District of Columbia.

Turnout is another key factor in determining the outcome, and it will especially be key in the 16 competitive states, which together account for 199 electoral votes. Republicans typically have an advantage in voter turnout in elections.
Each of  the last two presidents has damaged his own party brand. Bush was responsible for "2008, when Democratic strength nationally was its greatest in recent decades." Now we see that Obama has accomplished the same debacle, driving people in the Republican direction.

The question: how many loser "captains" can our ship of state survive? We won't know the answer until it's too late, until the ship founders.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Arrivaderci Santorum

Former Sen. Rick Santorum has suspended his presidential campaign, following a weak showing in the 2016 Iowa caucuses. To commemorate this milestone, I offer a bye-ku, a haiku of goodbye. The form has been popularized by The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto.

Santorum farewell.
Twenty-twelve was your moment,
Not twenty-sixteen.

Understanding Ted Cruz

Erica Grieder writes in Texas Monthly an appraisal of Ted Cruz they've entitled "The Field Guide to Ted Cruz." It's based on their reporting on him going back to the time before he entered the Senate. I particularly like what she writes about his intelligence.
I proceed on the assumption that Cruz is smarter than me—not that he’s a superior human who Americans should follow blindly, and not that he’s always right. Just that he’s smarter than me. In practice, that means when Cruz says or does something that doesn’t make sense to me, I ask myself what I’m missing. I take a step back and slowly puzzle through why a very smart person with certain well-documented strategic objectives would do that. Lord knows this is not my usual practice with politicians, but it has turned out to be a surprisingly effective technique for analyzing Cruz. I highly recommend it.
I like "smart."

Your Wednesday Snark

The always quotable Mark Steyn, from his SteynOnline blog, riffing on the Iowa caucus results.
It's not helpful to let five thousand hayseeds shuck Trump Tower like a corncob. Doing without consultants, doing without ads, doing without Fox News, doing without National Review, doing without debates ...great, great, love it. But doing without voters is a trickier proposition.

The Sanders surge is a strong sign that, while (Democrats are) relaxed about voting for an unprincipled arrogant phony marinated in ever more malodorous and toxic corruption, they draw the line at such a tedious and charisma-free specimen thereof.

At last night's rally, the only personable Clinton stood behind Hillary looking like an emaciated wraith of the Slick Willie of yore. Decades of interns appear to have literally sucked all the life out of him, leaving only (one presumes from friend Epstein's Lolita Express flight records) his distinguishing characteristics with any flicker of vitality. Judging from her brief but disastrous intervention in New Hampshire the other week, young Chelsea appears to have inherited her mother's warmth and personal touch.

Sanders needed to inflict actual defeat on Hillary. He needed headlines saying: "BERNIE WINS!" And he didn't get that. She certainly felt the Bern, but it wasn't a third-degree Bern.
Hat tip to for the link (and the laughs).

Sayonara Rand Paul

Politico reports Rand Paul is suspending his campaign for the GOP presidential nomination, following an embarrassing showing in Iowa. To memorialize this expected event we offer a bye-ku - haiku of goodbye. It's a form made popular by The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto.

Fare thee well, Rand Paul.
Libertarians seem so

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

GI Jill

When the Pentagon first began talking about women in combat roles in the armed services, I thought "This is the first step down a slippery slope that ends with your daughter or granddaughter being drafted into the infantry where she gets a leg blown off, wasted by PTSD or captured and raped to death by terrorists." Unhappy days!

At present, young men must register for the draft but no one is currently drafted into our all-volunteer military. That could change if recruiting efforts do not produce sufficient volunteers to meet expanded military commitments.

Today comes the next step down that proverbial slippery slope. A Reuters article from the Daily Mail (U.K.) reports the top U.S. Army and Marine generals also want young women required to register for the draft. If Congressional action is required, I don't see it happening.

Later ... I can imagine the courts ruling that requiring males, but not females, to register for the draft is disparate treatment not permitted by constitutional law which requires equal treatment.

Thoughts About Iowa

The Iowa caucuses are behind us, we go on to New Hampshire. Time to take a moment and summarize what we've learned.

First, Trump will not "run the table." There was talk he'd win IA and NH and then be unstoppable. It didn't happen. The race goes on.

Second, corn-raising Iowa was supposed to be wedded to ethanol and to the politicians who endorse it, pandering to them. Cruz opposed the ethanol requirement and won Iowa, it's another piece of conventional wisdom destroyed.

Third, "establishment" Republican voters are coalescing around Marco Rubio as predicted, albeit sooner than expected. This tends to cast a dark shadow on the hopes of Kasich and Christie for a strong second-place finish in NH.

Fourth, the Hillary "coronation" appears to be something less than a sure thing. She seems to have won a photo finish with Sanders, winning by 0.2% at last report. Sanders is projected to win NH, so that race continues.

Fifth, following NH most GOP aspirants should "suspend" their campaigns. Likely some will do so before NH.  After the so-called SEC primary on March 1 the fields should be down to an establishment candidate and an insurgent candidate in each party, the Dems are already there.

The Economic Equivalent of Perpetual Motion

A Ben Domenech tweet, as quoted by Steven Hayward at Power Line, on the subject of the Iowa caucus results.
The economic nationalist couldn’t get a quarter of the GOP vote. The economic socialist got half the Democratic vote. Who’s extreme again?
He's correct; Trump got 24% (less than a quarter) and Sanders got 49+% (effectively half).

Meanwhile, it's reported that most young Dems favored Bernie's socialism-lite. Every generation has to learn anew (usually through bitter experience) that socialism is the economic equivalent of perpetual motion. That is, the seductive promise of getting something without working for it.

"Something for nothing" doesn't work in physics or in economics. The things in life you get without working for them are the things you don't want to be: poor, stupid, old, sick, fat, bored, and dead.

Monday, February 1, 2016

A Trumpian Exodus?

COTTonLINE is careful not to endorse any candidate for nomination; any of the front-runners would be a quantum improvement over the incumbent or Hillary. That said, a publication called Government Executive has published a study which suggests an apparently powerful motive to elect Donald Trump.
One in four federal workers would consider leaving their jobs if Trump were elected president, according to a new survey conducted by the Government Business Council, Government Executive Media Group’s research arm. About 14 percent of respondents said they would definitely consider leaving federal service under President Trump, while an additional 11 percent said they might. The findings indicate those leaving government would come from agencies' top ranks, as a majority of respondents were in General Schedule positions GS-13 and higher.
Producing an exodus of this proportion - if it ever happened - might be reason enough to tolerate the less attractive aspects of a Trump presidency.  Sadly, it's just talk; they'll never leave but will do their level best to sabotage his initiatives.