Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Narcissistic Wound

Glenn Reynolds, blogging as Instapundit, waxes philosophical about the dilapidated state of modern leftism and comes up with this:
When a sense of superiority is all you’ve got (and cultivated self-superiority is the core of the current leftist project), realizing that others don’t share it is a narcissistic wound from which there is no recovery. That’s what’s wrong with much of our political class, and it’s ugly and destructive — because much of our political class, at core, is ugly and destructive.
Cultivating “self-superiority” is what drives the virtue signalling that is destroying our culture.

Blue Collar Boom

Steven Hayward posts on Power Line a quote from The Wall Street Journal (behind their paywall) concerning the ongoing economic boom.
Americans with only a high-school diploma are seeing faster earnings growth than their highly educated counterparts, as employers in low-wage industries hungrily search for workers to fill job openings.

In the fourth quarter of 2017, median weekly earnings for workers 25 years and older with only a high-school diploma rose 2.3% from the same period a year earlier, new Labor Department data show. Meanwhile, pay for Americans carrying a bachelor’s degree edged up just 0.8% from the fourth quarter of 2016.

The trend has been ongoing, with year-over-year wage growth for high-school graduates outpacing wage growth for college graduates in each quarter of 2017.
Would you call this Trump delivering for the people who elected him? I emphatically would. Who would have guessed the GOP would become “the workingman’s friend?” Not I.

Many of the most decent, squared-away people I’ve met in recent years have been in the building trades. The U.S. totally needs a healthy, prosperous blue collar workforce and community. Mike Rowe of Dirty Jobs is looking absolutely prescient.

Saturday Snark and Snickers

It is Saturday and, regular as clockwork, Steven Hayward has posted his weekly collection of cartoons, captioned photos, posters, and general weirdness at the Power Line site. A few I particularly enjoyed, described:

Cartoon of a married couple at the breakfast table, each reading part of the newspaper. Her section features stories of shootings in Chicago and people moving out of Illinois.
He says: “Trump called some place a s***hole.”
She asks: “Illinois?”

Cartoon of characters from Winnie-the-Pooh, Tigger hugs Eeyore and happily declaims:
I got a tax cut and my boss gave me a bounus and a raise!
An unhappy Eeyore, appropriately wearing a Democrat donkey symbol, responds:
Oh, bother.
Cartoon of Obama and Trump maybe a year ago, Trump holding a McDonalds cup out to Obama. Obama speaks:
Manufacturing jobs aren’t coming back ... this rotten economy is the new normal
 Trump replies:
Here, hold my Diet Coke
Photoshopped pix of Trump wearing a falconer’s glove and holding a Twitter bird with the fierce eye and ripping beak of an eagle, captioned:
The Trump Twitter Bird
Remember Democrats as the “mommie” party? A poster with the following text:
M| ake.                             (D)
A| merica.                  Democrats
M| ediocre
A| gain
Photos of President Obama hanging the Presidential Medal of Freedom around the necks of Bill Clinton, Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby, and Anthony Weiner. Caption:
I didn’t know there was a Sexual Predator Award
Photo of a one dollar bill, marked up with two zeros following each 1, captioned:
This dollar identifies as one hundred
If you don’t accept it you are a currencyphobe

North Korean Motives

If the topic interests you, The Atlantic has a decent article on what National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster believes North Korea’s intentions are in creating a nuclear missile capability. McMaster doesn’t buy the notion that it exists, as claimed, to deter a U.S. invasion and regime change.

It is his view the program exists to create a nuclear blackmail ability in the service of an overpowering desire to unify the Korean peninsula under Pyongyang’s rule. McMaster believes this desire drives the North Koreans in the same way it drove the North Vietnamese.

His view causes him to urge a more hawkish stance vis-a-vis North Korea. I find his reasoning persuasive, check out The Atlantic article.

The other DrC suggests I add a reminder of the recent announcement that North and South Korean athletes will march in together at the summer Olympics held in SK this summer. Such cooperation has not been the norm of late, and its meaning is unclear.

Personifying New York

Mollie Hemmingway, often a panelist on Bret Baier’s newscast at Fox News, writes in The Washington Post an upbeat article with this title:
I wasn’t a Trump supporter. I am now.
Basically, she’s pleasantly surprised that a formerly liberal-to-fit-in New Yorker has governed conservatively. I like this comment she wrote:
Like most people, I don’t particularly like Trump’s rhetorical style, juvenile insults and intemperate disposition — on full display in recent days. At the same time, having followed his career for decades, I am not surprised that he wakes up each morning as Donald Trump.
No kidding, he’s a prototypical son of New York City: brash, pushy, a booster, larger-than-life, in-your-face, and with an outsize chip on his shoulder. I haven’t liked most New Yorkers I’ve known personally, I might not like The Donald face-to-face.

My upside, I don’t expect to deal with him personally. On the national stage, being a bully for me and mine, he’s great. I like what he’s done so far, and hope for more. I’ll put up with his New York shtick in the spirit of taking the bad with the good.

Friday, January 19, 2018

A Blast from the Past

Instapundit links to an article in NRA Shooting Illustrated about the Krag-Jorgensen rifle and carbine. I grew up around one of these, a modified carbine my father used as a deer rifle. As the article notes:
Many Krags were sporterized into some mighty graceful deer rifles, as the performance of the .30-40 Krag cartridge fell somewhere between the .30-30 Win. and the .30-’06 Sprg.
I didn’t inherit dad’s rifle, it was stolen in a burglary of my parents’ home shortly after he died. I didn’t realize the design was as old as the article reports, originating in the late 1880s.

The Shutdown: Who Is to Blame?

Most Republicans voted for a continuing resolution to keep the government open while continuing to work on longer term funding; most Democrats voted against it. Paul Mirengoff, blogging at Power Line, does a good job of explaining the motives of the 5 Democrats and the 4 Republicans who voted against their partys’ preferred position.
Nearly every Republican Senator voted for the bill. The only exceptions were two pro-amnesty Senators — Lindsey Graham and Jeff Flake — and two anti-spending hardliners — Rand Paul and Mike Lee.

Nearly every Democratic Senator voted against the bill. The only exceptions were five Red State Dems — Claire McCaskill, Joe Manchin, Joe Donnelly, Heidi Heitkamp, and [Doug] Jones — four of whom (all but Jones) are up for reelection this year.
It begins to look like Alabama’s Jones could turn out to be something not seen in recent years: a conservative Southern Democrat.

Postscript: White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders has labeled it the “Schumer Shutdown.”

Chile Has Voted

More often than not, post-Allende Chile has been one of Latin America’s bright spots. World Politics Review gives us an overview of the current state of Chilean politics. Hat tip to RealClearWorld for the link.

The nation just elected a former conservative president - Sebastian Pinera - to a second, non-consecutive four year term. That is good for Chile.

They did not, however, give him a majority in either house of the Chilean legislature. This lack will make difficult rolling back social welfare adventures undertaken by the prior socialist administration of Michelle Bachelet.  That difficulty is substantially less good.

Divided government is often a recipe for inaction, or halfway measures that satisfy no one. There are exceptions; Bill Clinton worked with Newt Gingrich’s GOP to do some useful things - welfare reform being the most well-known and least popular with Clinton’s party.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

About “Cheap Sex”

New York magazine reviews a book by Mark Regnerus, a conservative Catholic sociologist at the U. of Texas entitled Cheap Sex: The Transformation of Men, Marriage, and Monogamy.
[It] provocatively explores how changes in technology and American society more broadly have reshaped intimacy in recent decades, creating a world in which sex is low-effort and abundant, marriage is late, and relationships tend to be fleeting.

Regnerus believes, in essence, that cheap sex has removed one of the chief incentives for men to grow up, resulting in the plague of perpetually adolescent men that have become a fixture of the American dating landscape.

The contemporary relationship market is producing two things in great abundance: highly educated single women and less-educated, low-status single men.

Single college-educated women are among the most liberal constituencies in America and are becoming more so. A recent study by UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute found that 41.1 percent of collegbe freshmen women consider themselves liberal or far-left, the highest percentage ever recorded — and with the largest-ever gender gap.

At the same time, unattached, low-status men are a nightmare for civilization. They are more likely to kill, rape, steal, drink, and use drugs, and they provide ideal recruits for extremist movements of all kinds, whether fascism and communism in 1930s Berlin or ISIS and the alt-right today.

As Ed West and others have suggested, much of contemporary political extremism is, among other things, an exaggerated form of stereotypically feminine (in the case of the far left) and stereotypically masculine (in the case of the far right) behavior.
Nobody mentions a pressing issue for most developed societies: a disasterously low birthrate. Current “western” mores don’t succeed in the simple continuation of humanity; other problems seem somewhat less pressing by comparison.

This column at a website called Armed and Dangerous might be a good companion read to the above, dealing with the same issues at a more colloquial level.

VS: Being a Prig and Bore

Blogging at Instapundit, Ed Driscoll quotes Hugo Rifkind of The Times (U.K.) on virtue signalling.
There is a hunger today to find the flaw, to be the one who says “that thing you think is fine is not fine, and I am a better person than you for noticing it”. You aren’t. You’re a prig and bore. Yes, maybe there’s a mote in my eye. Some eyes have those. No need to gouge them out.
COTTonLINE concurs.

Pope Honors Dutch Abortion Advocate

Is the sky falling? Lucianne.com links to a Breitbart story concerning a recent honor bestowed by Pope Francis on a Dutch woman politician who is a pro-abortion activist!
Pope Francis has conferred the title of “Commander of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great” on Lilianne Ploumen, a Dutch politician and vocal agitator for abortion rights.

Last year, Ploumen founded a pro-abortion organization called She Decides, which offers funding and support for international NGOs that provide, facilitate or campaign for abortion.

In an email to the Catholic Herald, Ms. Ploumen said that she was “very honoured” by the pontifical medal, which was sent via the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs last month.

In an interview with Dutch radio, Ploumen said she views the honor as a sign of the pope’s progressivism, as well as acknowledgement for her work in supporting abortion rights.

The Vatican press office has confirmed that the honor was indeed awarded to Lilianne Ploumen, but insists that it was not meant to signal approval of her pro-abortion activities.
There have to be ‘splodey heads’ all over the Catholic world. I try to imagine the dilemma of priests trying to explain to parishioners how abortion is mortal sin when the Pope honors a public abortion advocate and leader.

How does this honor not signal a backdoor doctrinal change for Roman Catholicism? Pope Francis semi-routinely ignores President Obama’s policy maxim: “Don’t do stupid sh*t.”

Unions Defend Mediocrity, Misbehavior

The Volokh Conspiracy has moved to the Reason.com website. There law prof Jonathan H. Adler summarizes the findings of different studies looking at the effect of extending collective bargaining rights to law enforcement officers and public school teachers. Hat tip to Instapundit for the link.

Sheriffs deputies in Florida received 27% more formal complaints about unprofessional behavior after collective bargaining was granted. This happened during a period when police in nearby communities, who already had bargaining rights, experienced no similar increase.

Economists looked at the outcomes for 35-49 year olds of having been taught by K-12 teachers with bargaining rights vs. those taught by teachers w/o such rights. They found former pupils taught by teachers whose unions had bargaining rights worked fewer hours per week and made less money 2-3 decades after leaving public school.

COTTonLINE has long believed that government employees should have neither collective bargaining rights nor the right to strike. Civil service protections and generous government benefits should suffice.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

By the Numbers

Commenting on the President’s characterization of Third World countries from which stream many legal and illegal immigrants into the U.S., Dennis Prager writes for RealClearPolitics the following:
According to data from the Center for Immigration Studies, 73 percent of households headed by Central American and Mexican immigrants use one or more welfare programs, as do 51 percent of Caribbean immigrants and 48 percent of African immigrants. Contrast that with 32 percent of East Asians and 26 percent of Europeans.
Making Europeans and Asians the best bets as productive immigrants. And even there we should be more selective than we’ve been.

End chain migration, deport visa overstayers and build that wall, Mr. President.

Japan Popular in Taiwan

On several occasions COTTonLINE has noted positive attitudes toward Japan held by the Taiwanese, as well as observing it was the only place the Empire of Japan occupied in the 1930s and 1940s where such attitudes today exist. Sources in the literature in support of this observation have been scarce until now.

Writing in The Diplomat, Eric Chan and Peter Loftus include the following concerning this relationship:
Tokyo will continue to have a strong interest in ensuring the de facto independence of Taiwan. The populations of both countries hold very favorable impressions of one another as indicated in two recent surveys, with a significant volume of bilateral trade. 
It is nice to have a source to cite in support of something we’ve observed while visiting Taiwan.

What Has Changed

Writing at City Journal, Kay Hymowitz looks at immigration then and now. She defines “then” as roughly 1850 to 1930.

It was a period when the U.S. took in millions of unskilled, often uneducated individuals and put them to work in manufacturing and building. During this period making it in the U.S. was largely sink or swim, no welfare, food stamps, etc.

Today sees opportunity for unskilled immigrants quite circumscribed.
Automation and offshoring to Third World countries have seriously eroded the number of blue-collar jobs. Manufacturing positions plummeted from 19.4 million in 1979 to 11.5 million in 2010. (snip) Today’s immigrants are more likely to be hotel workers, agricultural hands, bussers, janitors, and hospital orderlies.

They may be earning more than they could have in their home countries, but their wages—assuming they work full-time—are enough only to keep them a notch or two above the poverty line in the United States. Adding to their troubles is frequently a lack of benefits, unreliable hours, and little chance for moving up the income ladder.

The U.S. may want to welcome low-skilled workers to do the jobs “Americans won’t do” and to help them in the early years of assimilation. But the prospect of a multi-generational proletariat class, hovering near the poverty line and dependent on government help, is probably not what most Americans had in mind.​
Actually we already have a “multi-generational proletariat class“ who are the Democrats’ most loyal voters. Adding immigrant millions to that dependent class is the functional equivalent of finding yourself in a hole and not being smart enough to stop digging.

Obvious Answer Overlooked

A website with the unlikely name of Federal News Radio (aka Radio Swamp?) portentiously asks,
What’s in the Coast Guard’s secret sauce for high retention?
The answer given is that CG officers really care about their people, implying they do so more than officers in other uniformed branches. Nonsense.

The Coast Guard has great retention rates because it rarely posts people overseas, and even more rarely puts them in combat. Wherever they are posted, they normally see their families at least every few days.

Months-long sea duty is a Navy thing, CG not so much. And a lot of their people get home every night. This is the case because the “coast” they “guard” is the U.S. coast.

Don’t underestimate the ability to live what Americans consider a normal life as a motivator. Or perhaps the inability to do so as a demotivator, in those services with long overseas postings..

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Makers, Takers, and the New Tax Law

President Trump may have called certain wretched Third World countries cesspools, or equivalent. Writing at Forbes, William Baldwin calls eight states “sinkholes” and calculates what they call the “soak’em score” of each.
Do you live in a sinkhole state? There are eight of them, led by California and New York. These are places where the population dependent on the state — for employment, welfare or a pension — is larger than the population feeding it.

That excess of takers over makers is recipe enough for trouble when the next recession hits. But now some of the sinkholes have a new worry.

The Trump tax law enacted in December just about killed the federal deduction that prosperous people take for state income taxes. In states with stiff taxes, the cost of living has suddenly gone up.

Now high-income folks who pay the bills for big government in California, Illinois and New York will be even more motivated to decamp for Nevada, Florida or Texas.

I’ve quantified the Trump tax problem in the tables as a Soak ’em Score. This is the percentage of state tax revenues (from all kinds of taxes) coming from income taxes on people with incomes over $500,000. That tax revenue is vulnerable. Not every high earner can relocate, but a lot can.
It is worth remembering Forbes’ target audience is those with incomes over $500,000. Four of the eight “sinkhole” states have a high “soak’em score,” they are CA, CT, IL, and NY. Politically, all four are bluer than blue.

The other four “sinkhole” states - AK, LA, MS, and WV - have low “soak’em scores, and are thus not so vulnerable to the wealthy decamping for low tax havens.

Arresting News

Washington Times reports what could definitely turn out to be very good news.
Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen confirmed Tuesday that her department has asked federal prosecutors to see if they can lodge criminal charges against sanctuary cities that refuse to cooperate with federal deportation efforts.

“The Department of Justice is reviewing what avenues may be available,” Ms. Nielsen told the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Democrat mayors and council members doing the perp walk ... God, I do love it so. Hat tip to Gen. Patton for that last bit.

Most Will Be Better Off

Something reminded me of an old Ronald Reagan campaign pitch, used when he was running against incumbent Jimmy Carter in 1980. He famously asked, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”

Reagan did so believing enough would answer “no” to win him election, and apparently was correct. The GOP could do much worse than that chestnut in 2018.

Ask the voters whether they are better off than they were two years ago. It is a time in the economic cycle when the answer for most will be “yes.”

Why change horses when you’re winning the race? Why would you want to go back to Obama-era policies that left so many of us treading water?

I have to think “are you better off” is the best pitch Republicans running in 2018 have got. A year from now we’ll know.

The Trouble With Identity Politics

I’ve been pondering the downside of identity politics and I believe I see a ray of sunshine stabbing through the clouds. My insight, if that isn’t too grand a label, is a restaging of the classic “what if they gave a war and nobody came?”

What happens to a political party reliant on identity group politics - the Democrats - if a majority of the country’s people don’t feel like victims, don’t identify as members of a down-trodden out-group? Are there enough people who feel guilty about how well they are doing to fill the gap? Not likely.

Ms. Pelosi is finding it difficult to spin today’s economy as a slow motion apocalypse.  It seems probable to me with the economy booming, nearly everyone who wants a job getting one, and wages rising, that most will think things are okay in November.

People who think things are okay tend to vote Republican, following the conservative adage that if something isn’t broken, it doesn’t need repair.