Tuesday, April 24, 2018

A Whiff of Weimar

Robin Wright who writes for The New Yorker, does this whole thing on Trump, Madeleine Albright's criticism of Trump, and Fascism. Mostly, it's nonsense, but there is a way of looking at trends in today's America that could end up with us in something like Fascism.

The process in Italy I'm not so familiar with, let's set it aside. Germany got Fascism when during the Weimar Republic the two main political groups became very polarized, they went beyond politics to street fighting. Germany's Communists and Fascists both had gangs of bully boys as "enforcers" and "guards." Windows (and heads) were broken, marching, fist-shaking and chanting were the order of the day, and demonizing the opposition was very much de rigueur.

In the end Germany's fascists won the election held in this fevered environment. The process in Spain had a similar outcome at the end of a very bloody civil war between the factions.

In the U.S. we aren't there yet, we may never get there. OTOH we've clearly taken tentative steps on the radicalizing/demonizing path that eventually leads to violence and, possibly, either radical socialism (Communism in everything but name) or radical nationalism (Fascism in everything but name).

Those who say they smell a faint whiff of Weimar in the political air of today's America aren't wrong. It is my hope Trump will rescue us from a drift toward absolutism in the same way FDR did 80+ years ago. So far my hopes seem justified.

If Trump does so, it will be in spite of the Democrats much as FDR had to do it in spite of the Republicans of his day. So be it.

It's Not Aliens

Fox News carries a NASA story about their folks spotting odd-looking features on the surface ice 50 miles north of the Mackenzie River delta in the Beaufort Sea. Go check out their video of the site.

I have my own theory of what caused them, a Russian sub lurking on the bottom, dumping excess reactor heat via a heat exchanger. Minor plumes of warm water rising through a cold, ice-covered sea could cause the features pictured. And yes, seals would certainly take advantage of the breathing holes thereby created.

Guaranteed Failure

The idea of the Federal government becoming the employer of last resort, essentially guaranteeing everyone a job, is being floated. A quick web search finds articles about it in The New York Times, The Nation, and elsewhere.

The Soviet Union guaranteed everyone a job, although not their choice of job. The Soviet attitude was essentially this: we have to feed, house, and clothe everyone, why not put them to work? Little babushkas swept the sidewalks near their apartments, instead of mechanized street sweepers. Gangs of men with shovels and wheel barrows replaced construction equipment, badly.

Why this idea would surface here in an era of prosperity, when unemployment is at record lows, is unclear. And taking the failed Soviet Union as your model for anything seems counterintuitive, even for old lefties like Bernie Sanders.

FDR did some of this during the Great Depression, with his CCC and WPA. Facing 25% unemployment with no safety net, maybe it was okay, as a 'bridge' to better times. Today it makes no sense whatsoever. Times are good, unemployment is low, and real productive private sector jobs exist.

Resentment, Not Ideological Terrorism

A quick follow-up on the story out of Toronto about a fellow mowing down 25 people with a rental van, 10 of them fatally. It was naturally suspected as Islamic terrorism but, according to the CBC, the perp appears to have been just an angry loner showing his fellow Canadians how strongly he resented their lack of attention.

Canada has the same "let loony people wander" policy as the U.S. And thinking of our recent Waffle House shooter, both countries suffer grievously for doing so.
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I would draw your attention to the Canadian killer's inability to access firearms. It was no particular hindrance to committing mass murder.

How often do we need to say it? The issue is allowing crazy people to run free, not one particular type of weapon.

Almost anything can be a weapon, and most things have been used at some point. Tim McVey used sacks of chemical fertilizer and diesel fuel. Killers in London are using battery acid or butcher knives.

Taxes, An Incentive To Move

Do tax rates influence where people choose to live? Almost certainly they do. See a column on this subject at RealClearPolitics. Here’s my favorite paragraph.
As Milton Friedman famously observed, the only thing more mobile than the wealthy is their money. Between 2000 and 2017, net migration between states was roughly 13.6 million people, and has been accelerating. Over 80 percent of the net migration between states, some 12 million people, moved out of high-tax states and into low-tax states. As a result, the zero-tax states collectively saw their population grow by 32 percent, while the 10 highest-tax states saw only 10 percent population growth.
The authors note recent changes in Federal income tax law making state and local taxes no longer deductions from Federally taxable income. These make the gradient between low-or-no income tax states and high tax states like NY and CA much steeper, the incentives to move and penalties for staying greater.

In an online world, where you physically live becomes less and less critical as telecommuting becomes more widespread. For example, I seamlessly write this blog from three different residence locations each year. It is less easy to keep it going while traveling or cruising, but I manage.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Attempted Suicide by Cop

The Globe and Mail (Canada) has fascinating video of the confrontation between Toronto police and the guy who intentionally ran down and killed 10 people and injured another 15 with a rented van.

The driver's behavior is unmistakable. He has something that looks like a gun. He gets out of the van, points the gun-looking thing at the policeman, and effectively dares him to shoot. The policeman does not, they guy mimes drawing his weapon several times w/o shooting and the policeman holds fire until the driver puts it down and lies on the ground.

If you want to see reality TV of someone attempting "suicide by cop," there it is. I presume the driver had no actual gun or no ammunition but was trying to bait the cop into shooting him. That has to be the coolest cop I've ever imagined. I'd have shot that sucker in a New York minute - center body mass, probably twice.

It was an ethnic neighborhood, most of the people on the street are reported to be immigrants. Canada is going to wish they had a death penalty.

Quote of the Day

Instapundit links to a Tweet by someone with the nom-de-beak of Wretchardthecat.
The elites lost their mojo by becoming
absurd. It happened on the road between
cultural appropriation and transgender
bathrooms.
Left to their own devices, they instinctively wandered farther left than the electorate was willing to follow. Several have actually noticed they lead a parade with insufficient followers.

Obama's DOJ, FBI: Dirty

If you are trying to stay up-to-date on the revelations concerning the weaponizing of the FBI and DOJ under Obama, you need to read a RealClearPolitics article by Charles Lipson, a retired U. of Chicago political scientist. His column is the real deal, see his conclusion.
Unfortunately, it looks as though a lot of top officials at the FBI and DOJ were shaving the law, violating our basic constitutional promise that the rules must be applied fairly to everyone. That must include the powerful.

There is spreading evidence that, in the final year of the Obama administration, our country’s top law-enforcement and intelligence officials failed in that most basic responsibility. We need to know if they did, and we need to know who put them up to it.
Analysis: true.

An Abdication

Conrad Black has a column in Canada’s National Post in which he is critical of the U.S. (and Canadian) legacy media’s leftwing bias. Here’s my reaction to the situation he describes.

Newspapers are laying off reporters and editors, others are shrinking in size, page length, some are closing. News magazines are on the wane too, Newsweek has almost disappeared entirely. Decline in circulation, ad revenues, and column inch footprints are all well-documented and widely reported (or bewailed).

At the same time, the pervasive leftward bias of most of the legacy media is well-documented and unrebutted. It is real. Are these two things related? In fact we have cause and effect.

The nation is politically divided, as the results of the last presidential election amply demonstrate. The U.S. is close to being a fifty-fifty nation, politically. Yet the overwhelming bulk of the mainstream or legacy media overtly cheers for one side and, by so doing, has lost the readership and viewership of half the country.

The main beneficiaries of ceding of half the nation’s eyeballs have been various outlets owned by Rupert Murdoch: Wall Street Journal, New York Post, Fox News, all of which cater to the underserved half of our polity. There are also independents like the Orange County Register and the Investor’s Business Daily.

With little competition for conservative viewers and readers, these are doing very well. New media sites online have likewise blossomed in this underserved marketplace.

Later ... large blocs of the left's electorate are non-consumers of print media. Many are also less-than-comfortable with the spoken English of broadcast media or too busy to watch.

Marketing their product to a subset of a subset of the populace is what the legacy media perforce have chosen to do. It isn't working.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Romney Forced to GOP Primary

The Salt Lake Tribune reports something unexpected:
After 11 hours of political elbowing and shoving at the Utah Republican Convention — held appropriately at a hockey arena — delegates forced Mitt Romney into a primary election against state Rep. Mike Kennedy in the U.S. Senate race.

In fact, Kennedy — a doctor and lawyer — finished in first place at the convention with 51 percent of the vote to Romney’s 49 percent. The former GOP presidential nominee fell far short of the 60 percent needed to clinch the nomination outright.
This is excellent news, and suggests Utah isn't anxious to send an anti-Trump champion to the Senate. Rightly or wrongly, Romney is viewed as such.

BTW, most of that "11 hours of political elbowing and shoving" was fighting over proposed party rules changes, only tangentially involving the Romney-Kennedy contest.

Self-Censorship

Ya gotta love it when a prominent minority person says things which clearly reveaal he or she experiences racial and other prejudices. It helps prove COTTonLINE’s contention that racial prejudice is a normal part of the human experience, absolutely not limited to persons of European ancestry (aka “whites”).

POLITICO reports California Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia has made anti-Asian comments.
California Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, the prominent #MeToo activist now under investigation for groping and sexual harassment of former legislative staffers, was reprimanded by former Assembly Speaker John Perez in 2014 for making racially insensitive comments against Asians.

Perez confirmed to POLITICO Saturday that he had to “strongly admonish” Garcia after she made comments against Asians in a closed-door Assembly Democratic Caucus meeting in 2014 — the same year in which she also acknowledged using homophobic slurs aimed at Perez, the first openly gay Speaker of the California State Assembly.
Homophobia and anti-Asian bias? Garcia is a “poster child” for the ubiquity of prejudice. Of course she is less fond of it when the prejudice is directed at Hispanics or women (i.e., who she is).

All of which doesn’t make Garcia a monster. She’s an out-of-the-closet normal human being who, unlike most politicians, isn’t especially skilled at self-censorship.

As a conservative who survived 30 years in the ultra-liberal university environment, I did a lot of self-censorship. It is, obviously, no longer required of me.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Friday Night Fun

Have some fun. Go to YouTube and locate a homemade video called "The wreck called Hillary Clinton." Al Doane has written parody lyrics and sings 'em to the music of a karaoke track of Gordon Lightfoot's "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."

He even suggests Webb Hubbell was the father of Chelsea and backs it up with side-by-side photos showing a degree of similarity. Once you've heard it, check out some of the other song parodies on the rich subject of Ms Clinton.

The “Plantation” Democrats

Now and again Thomas B. Edsall, columnist for The New York Times, writes something worth a conservative reader’s time. Today’s column is one such, dealing with the split within the ranks of the Democrats.

Edsall writes that the Democrat’s voters have become an hourglass shape of very well-off meritocratic knowledge workers and poor, often immigrant service workers. The middle clsss meanwhile is over voting for the GOP.

Reading the column you get the sense Edsall isn’t particularly worried about the income distribution aspects but is concerned about the former bidding up housing prices to the point where it drives the latter out of town. This has happened in San Francisco and other hyper-expensive locales. Edsall quotes Harvard economist Dani Rodrik:
In principle, greater inequality produces a demand for more redistribution. Democratic politicians should respond by imposing higher taxes on the wealthy and spending the proceeds on the less well off.

(In practice) democracies have moved in the opposite direction. The progressivity of income taxes has decreased, reliance on regressive consumption taxes has increased, and the taxation of capital has followed a global race to the bottom. Instead of boosting infrastructure investment, governments have pursued austerity policies that are particularly harmful to low-skill workers.

(The Brahmin Left) is not friendly to redistribution, because it believes in meritocracy — a world in which effort gets rewarded and low incomes are more likely to be the result of insufficient effort than poor luck.
And quotes Michael Lind of University of Texas, observing:
(Democrats, in this scheme, have become the party of) the downtown and edge city elites and their supporting staff of disproportionately foreign-born, low-wage service workers.
Exactly the plantation economy to which much of CA is moving.  Or you could think of it as the Latin American model, ricos at the top, pobres at the bottom, not many in between.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

A Wintry Spring

Drudge Report links tonight to headlines from the Chicago Tribune and the Detroit News. The former says Chicago has had the coldest April in 130 years, the latter says Detroit is having the coldest April in 143 years.

I can see an argument for this being climate change, it is much harder to argue it is caused by global warming. Maybe it is global cooling? Sunspot activity continues to be nearly nonexistent.

Our sun is a continuous thermonuclear explosion kept from splattering its matter across the galaxy by its enormous gravitational pull. Our small share of the radiant energy escaping the solar gravity well is so vast as to make the collective activities of all humans pale into something approaching insignificance.

Quite small variations in solar radiation can have large effects here on Sol III. They are the likely culprits for climate change, when it occurs.

Appearances Are Deceiving

The Friedman who, these days, is writing most knowledgeably about foreign affairs is named George, not Tom. The latest George Friedman opus is at RealClearWorld, and it concerns how and why large, militarily sophisticated nations often appear to lose to smaller, local uprisings.

He begins with the world-bestriding British losing to George Washington's colonials, and mentions our less-than-victories in Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq. The issue, he believes, is "asymmetry of interests," by which he means the extent to which a war is a "win it or die trying" proposition for one side but not the other. Here is the nub of his argument:
Great powers have multiple interests, and not all interests are the same. That means a global power is prepared to initiate and withdraw from wars without victory, for tactical and political advantage. Over time, paying the cost of the war becomes irrational. Great powers can “lose” wars in this sense and still see their power surge. Fighting in a war in which your country’s interest is not absolute, and therefore the lives of soldiers are not absolute, is difficult for a democracy to do.

In most of the world, the great power will encounter an asymmetry of interest. Those who live there care far more about the outcome of the war than the great power does. And so, the great power withdraws from Syria when the price becomes higher than the prize. Given the string of defeats, it is expected that the great power is in decline. Like Britain after its defeat in North America, it is not in decline. It has simply moved on to more pressing interests.
This is an interesting interpretation our our post-World War II foreign 'adventures.'

Exactitude

Fired FBI Director James Comey has penned an opinion piece for NBC News with this intriguing subheading:
Trump is a liar and morally unfit for office.
What makes this statement worth commentary is the exactitude with which the statement, directed at President Trump, in fact describes its author: James Comey.

Who can forget Comey absolving felonious Hillary Clinton of wrongdoing? His describing her mishandling of classified material as "extremely careless" instead of the legally culpable "grossly negligent" which it clearly was.

In what fanciful world are these two descriptions not synonyms? It is high time Comey was targeted for criminal investigation, for which a referral has been sent (see below).

Criminal Referral of Obama DOJ Personnel

Fox News reports eleven Republican members of Congress have sent a letter to the Department of Justice making a criminal referral for activities associated with the Clinton campaign in the 2016 election. Those named for criminal investigation include Hillary Clinton, James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Loretta Lynch, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, Sally Yates, Dana Boente, and possibly Rod Rosenstein.

I don’t believe AG Sessions’ recusal will apply to this investigation as no Russian involvement is inferred. Interestingly, it asks Rosenstein be recused considering his involvement with aspects of the allegedly criminal matter.

You’ve heard of dueling banjos? This shapes up to being dueling criminal investigations - Democrats vs. Republicans. Mueller’s merry band vs. a yet-to-be-named team looking at the active support for the Clinton campaign given by DOJ and FBI persons who are required by law to be non-partisan in all of their official actions, if not in their personal beliefs or voting.

Looking back at the list of referred suspects, wouldn’t they constitute a perp walk for the ages?

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A Full Moon...beam

California's former and present Governor Jerry Brown was in the nation's capital yesterday pontificating left and left. I started to write "left and right" but of course there was no balance to what he said.

Back in 1975 when he first ran for governor, it was reported Jerry was a former Catholic seminarian. Hindsight shows it is a shame he didn't persist in that vocation, as he clearly is unfit for his current role.

Actually, 'Father' Brown's beliefs would fit in with the newest Catholic leadership. He and Pope Francis would discover much overlap in their - not theology exactly - more like ideology. Both are lifelong lefties.

What is even scarier, Jerry Brown is what passes for a grown-up voice in Sacramento. The legislative leaders - all very progressive Democrats - want to turn CA into Venezuela Norte. What's more, the next governor (Brown is term-limited) may well go along with it.

One wonders how long it will take to declare CA officially "bilingual" in the same way the national government of Canada is? Imagine all state business being conducted in both English and Spanish, simultaneous translation in the legislature, all documents printed in both, roadsigns, etc. Probably not in my lifetime - I'm not young - but who knows?

N.B., bilingualism isn't popular with Canadians. They put up with it as the penance they must pay for Quebec not declaring independence. Oddly, Quebecers don't like it either, who needs all that stupid English. But Quebecers insist because it pisses off the hated Anglophones. Ironic....

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Bye-Ku for Barbara Bush

With the customary hat tip to WSJ’s James Taranto, its popularizer, we offer a bye-ku - a haiku of farewell - to former First Lady Barbara Bush, who died today at age 92. She was widely admired.

Bye Barbara Bush:
Wife and mum of presidents,
Dynastic doyen.

San Diego County Joins Anti-CA Suit

It turns out California's state laws friendly to illegal immigrants are not universally popular in the Golden State. The latest jurisdiction to vote to join the lawsuit against the CA laws is the County of San Diego. ABC San Diego reports it.

The Board of Supervisors voted 3-1 in favor of joining the lawsuit. This is large. Of course, San Diego County is on the border with Mexico so they get a concentrated dose of immigrant-caused problems, both residents and those passing through headed north.