Sunday, June 28, 2015

A Rude Pairing

Steven Hayward of Power Line includes the following pairing in his
The Week in Pictures, Confederacy of Dunces edition.


You could conclude Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Chair of the Democratic National Committee, was the inspiration for the animated Jar Jar Binks character in Star Wars Episodes I, II, and III.

Hayward shares this cartoon, too:


An odd refrigerator in more ways than one, notice the two doors open in different directions.

Against Catastrophic Financial Loss

Megan McArdle writes for Bloomberg View something we should remember - health insurance is a financial product. It is designed to solve a financial problem.

Research shows it doesn't make us healthier. It does remove or ameliorate a low probability, high impact financial risk - the risk of catastrophic medical bills driving us into bankruptcy.

As McArdle notes, somewhat irrational human biases prevent utilization of the most economic methods of managing major financial risks associated with medical costs. Health insurance - as now constituted - helps people be happier, not especially healthier.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Governing from the Bench

The fourteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution was adopted on July 9, 1868, following the Civil War. For the next 147 years it was understood to require equal treatment for all Americans, regardless of race.

This spring the narrowest possible majority of Supreme Court justices found, lurking within it, the right of persons of alternative sexual orientations to marry. This is a protection that 6 or 7 generations of jurists had not detected. Whatever happened to stare decisis?

I  take no position on same-sex marriage. I believe strongly legalizing it - if that is the public will - should have been done via legislation by elected representatives. Government by five unelected jurists-for-life is not what this nation is about.

The Gender Issue

The columns of political analyst Charlie Cook appear in National Journal. In tomorrow's issue he writes about the gender issue in 2016 presidential politics, with particular reference to the role of presumed Democrat nominee Hillary Clinton.

Clinton polls better among women than among men, no surprise. Also, among college-educated women as opposed to those not so. Cook writes:
Given that Clinton is unlikely to be able to match President Obama's turnout and support levels among minority and young voters, how can she make up for that? If there is a sphere in which she could conceivably outperform Obama, it is likely to be among women—arguably those who do not also fall into either the "minority" or "young" categories, as Obama did especially well with both minority and young women.

Republicans are obviously acutely aware of their problem with women voters. (snip) Less certain is how aware Democrats are of their problem with men voters, specifically white men.
Clinton is seriously unpopular with white men, while breaking even with white women.
Among white women, Clinton had a net positive score of 1 point (44 percent positive, 43 percent negative), while among white men, she was at -22 points (53 percent negative, 31 percent positive), a 23-point gender gap.
Evidence continues to mount that the major parties are moving in the direction of having "tribal" memberships.

It's a Brave New World

Writing for American Thinker, Thomas Lifson argues that today's Supreme Court decision finding same-sex marriage is constitutionally protected under the 14th amendment is only a first step. I concur.

The same reasoning that finds a right to same-sex marriage in the U.S. Constitution also supports the right of more than two people to marry, In other words, polyandry, polygyny, and polyamory, known collectively as polygamy. For that matter, dropping the ban on incest is likely as well.

----------o--0--o----------

I can imagine states where most residents do not concur with today's decision at least considering getting out of marriage licensure entirely. Perhaps in those jurisdictions "marriage" would become a contractual arrangement entered into by simple signature before witnesses.

Any associated religious ceremony would require mutual agreement of the contracting parties plus the church in question, and have no legal standing. If a church found certain marital configurations doctrinally offensive, they would not be required to bless same. Presumably other churches would discover they had flexibility in such matters and be available.

Smart people would include in their contract those provisions which would apply in the event of a dissolution or other non-performance, including penalties and provisions for children, pets, chattel and real property. "Divorces" might be concluded by a mediator, arbitrator, or civil court judge as specified in the contract.

Under these circumstances, a "marriage" would include whatever lawful features upon which the contracting parties could agree, and only those. Think of the employment for attorneys such an environment would provide - a mostly new branch of legal practice related to the prior practice of drafting prenuptial agreements.

Pressing individuals to make explicit their expectations of each other before marriage might be a healthy step toward reducing divorce.

USAF A-10 Animus Explained

The Hill reports the GAO finds the USAF has misstated its savings from retiring the A-10 Warthog ground attack aircraft. Meanwhile a long Politico article reports on tussles within the Pentagon between the Army on one hand against a coalition of the Navy and Air Force over the Army's vanishing role in a defense doctrine called AirSea Battle (ASB).

I believe grasping assumptions explicit in ASB will take us a long way toward understanding why the Air Force wants to rid itself of the A-10. The Politico article quotes then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates as saying any defense secretary:
Who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia, or into the Middle East, or Africa should have his head examined.
Implicitly that Secretary should look for another line of work.

If we aren't going to commit "a big American land army" to such places, if all we commit are air and naval resources, we aren't going to need ground support aircraft to protect troops there. Thus the very effective A-10 had no role in the AirSea Battle model jointly envisioned by the Air Force and Navy, which doctrine was official policy for several years. 

Events, as they often do, have overtaken the ASB. Today the A-10 is hard at work in Iraq and Syria supporting proxy forces on the ground. It would also have a (probably sacrificial) role in any NATO-involved European conflict with Russian armor. Ground warfare isn't as unthinkable today as it was in 2011 when Gates spoke at West Point, thanks to Tsar Vladimir.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Disciple of Political Realism

Hillary Clinton, speaking about the underwhelming John Kerry presidential campaign of 2004, as quoted by Tina Brown in The Washington Post.
You don't have to fall in love, you just have to fall in line.
Hillary applying "Lie back and enjoy it" to politics? Hat tip to Ed Driscoll, guest posting at Instapundit, for remembering this 11 year old gem of realpolitik.

Broken Windows Policing in NYC

Myron Magnet (great name) is Editor-at-Large of City Journal. He has written an explanation of broken windows policing, including its history of success in New York City, and a description of the chaos that has followed its termination by Mayor de Blasio.

Broken windows policing worked, so of course it had to go. Too many members of de Blasio's base earned arrest records for being the scofflaw fools proactive policing doesn't suffer gladly.

Half-Christmas Today

Today, June 25, is the midpoint between last Christmas and the next. Have you started shopping yet? The DrsC have.

How about planning holiday get-togethers? Maybe it's a little early for that, eh?

In any event, have a Merry Half-Christmas!

Court Supports ACA ... Again

The Supreme Court today handed down a 6-3 verdict in favor of allowing the government to continue subsidizing Obamacare for poor enrollees in states which did not establish their own insurance exchanges. See a Yahoo News article for details.

Chief Justice Roberts argued that, however "inartful" the law's wording, it was the intent of the Congress to provide assistance to all poor enrollees. However much COTTonLINE readers may dislike Obamacare, in that allegation Roberts is likely correct.

On the other hand, I particularly enjoyed what Justice Scalia wrote in dissent.
The cases will publish forever the discouraging truth that the Supreme Court of the United States favors some laws over others, and is prepared to do whatever it takes to uphold and assist its favorites.
It is likely Scalia is correct as well.

An Accidental Insight

Occasionally The New York Times' Thomas Edsall, an old lefty but a smart one, comes up with an insight worth sharing or, in this case, elaborating upon. The question with which he begins today's column is this: Why don't today's poor engage in collective action to better their lot?

Most of his answer is the usual liberal claptrap, but he stumbles across an insight almost as if by accident.
Those bearing the most severe costs of inequality are irrelevant to the agenda-setters in both parties. They are political orphans in the new order. They may have a voice in urban politics, but on the national scene they no longer fit into the schema of the left or the right. They are pushed to the periphery except for a brief moment on Election Day when one party wants their votes counted, and the other doesn’t.
The Democrats - historic advocates for the interests of the less-well-off - have been captured by a collection of affluent interest groups with agendas that either fail to assist, or actually damage, the well-being of the poor.  Examples include the greens who oppose growth, LGBT groups, the tech moguls, and the public employee unions, including teachers.

These groups now fund the Democrats and, as they pay the piper, they call the tunes to which the party dances. Lip service is given to betterment of the poor but little actual equalization results.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Prioritizing Four Threats

Writing for The National Interest, Mark Katz summarizes the four threats confronting the United States in the early decades of the 21st century. These are Russia, China, Iran, and the Sunni Jihadists.

Katz argues, correctly I believe, that realistically we cannot give full attention to all four - thus prioritization is required. He analyzes the four and concludes:
Despite its growing assertiveness of late, Beijing’s behavior has been less aggressive than that of Moscow since its annexation of Crimea, support for the rebels in eastern Ukraine, and increasing threats to European stability.

While some are doubtful that Iran truly seeks rapprochement with the West, there is little question that ISIS, Al Qaeda, and similar groups are not open to diplomacy, and that they would overthrow all those Middle Eastern governments which fear Iran (as well as topple the Islamic Republic itself) if they could.

Analysis suggests, then, that at present, America should prioritize Russia and Sunni jihadists over China and Iran.
Publicly available information about U.S. actions overseas suggests the government has essentially drawn these same conclusions. Hat tip to RealClearDefense for the link.

Quote of the Day

A Ukrainian official, quoted in The Economist, on the practical effect of Putin's actions vis-a-vis Ukraine.
Putin has done more to unite Ukraine than anyone else.
Truly, there is nothing like having an external enemy against which to coalesce.

Oops! How Embarrassing!



No comment needed. Hat tips to Lucianne.com and Breitbart 2016: The Race for the links to these eBay screen shots.

Aspiration Yes, Expectation No

We wrote yesterday about the universality of discrimination and prejudice. Now comes the sometimes bombastic Bill O'Reilly making the same point, as reported by Fox News.
I have traveled to 80 countries, and I can tell you there is more racial harmony in the USA than in 90 percent of the places that I visited.
He's correct. I've been to maybe 110 countries and discrimination is everywhere. We do a better job of getting along with those unlike ourselves than most, although we're far from perfect.

As we noted yesterday, rejecting those unlike ourselves is apparently "hardwired" in the human genome. Although living in harmony is our aspiration, it shouldn't be our expectation.

The Game Continues

The New York Times' Tom Friedman finally admits what we've been claiming since 2008, the Cold War is back and the lack of ideology cheapens it for him. Cold War 2.0 is just raw nationstate power politics, without the ideological window dressing.

Honestly, it was never about ideology. Properly understood Cold War 1.0 was the Russian empire vs. ours. In its latter stages it became a three cornered game including the Chinese. Today it bids fair to become a four cornered game with the Islamists aspiring to join "the bigs."

It's unfortunate we have a President who wants to sit on the sidelines. The game continues whether or not we take our turn at bat. Clearly, sidelined nations cannot win, they become the retinue, the minions, of powerful states.

The Right Question

See a story at the website of Baltimore station WBAL TV on difficulties their police have in recruiting black cops. Under grilling they admit that 63% of city residents are black while only 39% of their officers are black. Hat tip to Lucianne.com for the link.

A more reasonable question would be what percentage of Baltimorean residents of any color meet the minimum requirements to be considered for a job with the force? Minors, drug users, convicted felons, the physically and mentally handicapped, high school dropouts, the elderly, and the insane are all ineligible for this stressful job, I hope you'll agree. I'd want to know what percentage of that remainder is black.

I'll bet they have done a great job of recruiting this remainder, particularly since the popo aren't well-loved in the black community. If you were a healthy young black adult with a high school diploma and a clean criminal record, would you choose a police career? Odds are you would not.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Horse Race

Every month or so William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, does a poll of TWS blog readers and newsletter subscribers concerning their preferences among the GOP presidential aspirants. This poll has a clever name - the "Kristol Clear Straw Poll."

The latest edition is just out: Walker gets the most first place votes, followed by Rubio. Kristol summarizes the findings:
Walker remains strong, Rubio continues to move up, and Fiorina is surging.
The poll didn't include Trump among those listed. He had yet to make clear his intentions when the poll was taken. Hat tip to Drudge Report for the link.

Quote of the Day

Former Senator Phil Gramm, as quoted by National Review columnist Jay Nordlinger, on why he never mentioned free trade when campaigning:
Almost all people benefit from free trade, and they don’t know it.
A few people are harmed by free trade — and they all know it.

Populism No Panacea for Democrats

In a long article for National Journal tracing the history of progressive populist efforts at reducing income disparities in the U.S., John Judis stumbles across conservative populism. He sees the Democrats' emerging platform of government action to reduce income disparities being based on unwarranted assumptions.
The first flaw has to do with the status of the middle class. The populists assume that the rich are currently getting richer and that everyone else is suffering; that the middle class is vanishing.

While incomes and wealth at the very top have soared, and while people at the bottom of the economic ladder—many of whom have only high school degrees or less—are indeed threatened with falling incomes and joblessness, middle America is not dying or disappearing.

The real division in Chicago—and, I would suspect, in other cities and states—is not so much between the very rich and everyone else, but between thriving middle- and upper-middle-class neighborhoods and those boarded-up neighborhoods inhabited by the very poor.

This is not a class division that is conducive to a progressive populism that seeks to unite the 90 percent against the very rich. In fact, outside of a Democratic town like Chicago, it may be more conducive to a right-wing populism than a left-wing populism.
Of government programs to ameliorate inequality, he reports pollster Greenberg found:
Voters understood appeals to fairness as appeals to use their tax money for government programs to aid minorities. Outside of very blue areas, today's populist appeals to reduce economic inequality could well be understood in the same manner.
No question, they are understood as exactly that. Judis' bottom line can be found in the article's title:
Dear Democrats: Populism Will Not Save You