The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Educational Decisions

School System A spends 50 to 75 percent more per student than school system B. Why is it then, that educational outcomes for School System A are often worse and sometimes much worse that School System B? The reason is that monetary expenditures are NOT the only predictor of educational success—the quality of teachers plays a very important role, class size, the interest that each student's family has in educational outcomes, overall discipline, and many other factors come into play. There is, of course, still another elephant in the classroom, but political correctness does not allow us to mention it ... so I won't.

The Trump administration's Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, wants to allow low income families to have the ability to choose the school their children attend—in essence, to have all schools, public and private, compete based on their quality and the educational outcomes for their students. Needless to say, because this approach puts more control in the hands of citizens and less in the hands of a large and often ineffective government bureaucracy, progressives and the Democratic politicians they support are against it.

The editors of the Wall Street Journal comment:
Betsy DeVos must be doing something right. Why else would Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, devote a speech late last week to blasting the Education Secretary for using the word “choice”—and then tying it to racism?

Sounding like Hillary Clinton in full deplorable mode, Ms. Weingarten says the movement to give parents more say over where their kids go to school has its roots in “racism, sexism, classism, xenophobia and homophobia.” Adapting the theology of the climate-change censors who seek to shut down debate, she goes on to call Mrs. DeVos a “public-school denier.”

What really frosts the AFT president is that she recognizes that the public-school monopoly her union backs is now under siege, morally and politically, for its failure to educate children, especially minority children.
Why is it that denizens of the left, rather than providing a cogent argument to justify their position, instead rely on name calling—“racism, sexism, classism, xenophobia, and homophobia?” That approach is getting so old, so cliched, it's actually laughable.

In my view, DeVos would do the nation a favor by taking a different approach. The federal government has no need for a Department of Education—it should be downsized considerably or even eliminated. Educational decisions should be left to the states and even more importantly to the cities and towns in which children actually learn. The closer such decisions are to the families that are effected by them, the better education will become. And please, spare me the notion that the bad old days of segregation and bias will return with a vengeance. Times are different. Besides the Feds have failed miserably in their attempt to make the education of our children more agile, more focused, and simply better. Like most federal government departments, the DoE is bloated, inefficient, and ineffective. I would shed no tears if it simply disappeared.

Who better to make major educational decisions than the communities that are affected by them? The closer any government decision is to the people who are directly affected, the better it will be.

And if Randi Weingarten truly thinks that because of my position I'm "racist, sexist, classist, xenophobic, and homophobic and a public school denier”, I'll respond in kind—Randy Weingarten is an idiot! Ooooooo ... this name calling stuff is really fun.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Like Hell

The resignation of Sean Spicer gives the main stream media still more fodder for their on-going war against Donald Trump. Spicer's resignation is not surprising. Trump undercuts his communication team, making their lives miserable and difficult at every turn. But it is also true that every day, the President's spokesperson faces a vitriolic game of 'gotcha' that is indicative of a media that has lost its collective mind.

It's becoming increasingly obvious that the main stream media has become a vocal and nationally recognized third party that aligns with the Democrats on virtually everything, but claims to represent an independent voice. Sure, it's not on the ballot, but the third party works overtime to be ensure that one political party is ceaselessly demonized. And if the demonized party still wins, the third party works even harder to defeat it.

But here's the thing. Across large swaths of the American public, the third party is reviled. People vote against the media by voting against the party they shill for. At least in part, that's why Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton. A vote for Trump was a giant F.U. for the main stream media.

John Nolte provides an angry diatribe that has more truth in it than the trained hamsters of the main stream media want to hear:
The very same media that shrugged when Hillary Clinton set up a secret server, deleted 33,000 government emails, BleachBit'd whatever remained and then literally took a hammer to the devices — the media that set that precedent now wants us to get all worked up over Trump's tweets?

The very same media that buried Bill Clinton's perjury and his numerous victims of sexual abuse — the media that set those precedents now wants us to consider an Access Hollywood video a disqualifier for the presidency? Now wants us to freak out over an awkward handshake?

The very same media that gushed over Barack Obama's magical ability to "slow-walk the truth" — the media that set that precedent now wants us to impeach Trump over how the details of his son's meeting with a Russian lawyer have been released?

The very same media that joined Obama in pointing and laughing at Mitt Romney's concern over Russia, the very same media that told us Obama's serial-appeasement of Russia (refusing Poland missile defense, "more flexibility after the election") was in reality an extraordinary form of statesmanship — the media that set those precedents now wants us to toss Trump out on his ear because he's hoping to work with Putin?

The very same media that covered up the fact that Democrats and Team Hillary worked with the foreign government of Ukraine in the hopes of digging up dirt on Trump, the media that itself has used opposition research from the Russian government (the Golden Showers dossier) in the hopes of destroying Trump — the media that set those precedents now want us to turn on Trump because his son hoped for the same?

The very same media that again and again used "Republican overreach" as a tactic to damage the GOP whenever a Democrat scandal rose up — the media that set that precedent now wants us to side with them when the Trump administration chooses to communicate directly through social media?

The very same media that asked 23 follow-up questions of Trump and none of Hillary [during the Presidential Debates] — the media that set that precedent now wants us to side with them when the White House limits the press briefings they can peacock in?

The very same media that said nothing when Obama hired a 9-11 Truther as a Czar (and later hired him as one of their own) — the media that set that precedent wants us to be upset over Ivanka and Jared?

The very same media that showed absolutely no interest in recovering even one of Hillary's 33,000 illegally deleted emails — the media that set that precedent, now wants us to share their outrage over the fact that Don Jr. tried to recover them in a 20-minute meeting?

And now — now! — this very same media (with the help of #NeverTrump's forever-preening moral narcissists) is using the spear of Muh Principles to demand that those of us on the political right agree to destroy ourselves in their corrupt crusade, that we acquiesce like second-class citizens to their separate sets of rules?

Like hell.
Yeah ... like hell.

And by the way, whether you're on the Right, the Left, or in the center, every person should agree that the repeated and blatant application two sets of rules have damaged the media so badly that it is no longer to be considered trustworthy or "professional." Rather, the media should be perceived for what they are—a third political party that shills for the Democrats.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Down in Flames

The GOP's attempts to repeal and replace Obamacare went down in flames. Part of the problem is that GOP senators have differing opinions on what federal intervention into healthcare should look like (they didn't act with the hive mind of Democrats in 2009-2010). As I've noted, the GOP failure to repeal and replace is bad in the political short term, but over the mid-term, it will highlight the reality that Obamacare is collapsing before our eyes. Since the Democrats don't want to participate in any realistic fixes to the failing program, it might be better to allow it to fail—putting pressure on everyone in Washington to do something.

Then again, with the Dems dishonestly suggesting that any changes to Obamacare (by the GOP) will result in the "deaths of millions" and their stated objective of resisting Donald Trump in every way possible, it's pretty hard to see an effective bi-partisan bill emerging.

The Obamacare debate is emblematic of most in Washington—an honest attempt to reduce costs and improve effectiveness, followed by demagoguery and fear mongering at any attempt to reduce costs and improve effectiveness. It is fed by inaccurate and misleading claims about coverage and costs.

Shikha Dalmia writes:
Medicaid provides health care to 75 million Americans. [In other words, about 1/4 of the population gets "free" medical coverage paid for by the rest of us]. It's also a hideously expensive program that is at the center of the raging health-care debate in Washington. Republicans want to scale back the program, and Democrats warn that doing so will cause nothing short of mass death.

But that is not a credible—or responsible—claim.

ObamaCare extended Medicaid eligibility to able-bodied adults at up to 138 percent of the poverty level. To do this, the federal government promised to pick up 100 percent of the tab for the first three years, and then 90 percent in perpetuity in participating states. Republicans want to trim back Medicaid eligibility to the pre-ObamaCare days, when "only" the poor, children, the disabled, the elderly, and pregnant women qualified.

Conservatives also want to take the opportunity to fundamentally reform the program, which consumed half of most state budgets and a tenth of the federal budget even before the ObamaCare expansion. To this end, Republicans want Uncle Sam to stop handing states on average 50 cents for every Medicaid dollar they spend and instead give them a fixed lump sum on a per-patient basis and tie its growth to general inflation.
But GOP attempts at reform shift power from Big Intrusive Government (B.I.G.) to the states. That is anathema for almost all Democrats.

But ... but ... but, it's much better for poor people and others to have coverage under medicaid because—they don't die! The implication of this gross exaggeration is that health outcomes are better under Obamacare/Medicaid. But they aren't. Again from Dalmia:
Medicaid is perhaps the civilized world's worst program. It costs just as much as private plans—about $7,000 per patient—but produces worse outcomes, including higher mortality, than private coverage. So given that one of ObamaCare's dirty little secrets is that many of its Medicaid enrollees are folks kicked off their private plans due to the Medicaid expansion, the law may have actually cost—rather than saved—lives in this cohort.

But what about the uninsured? Extending Medicaid to these people improved their health and diminished mortality, right? Wrong. Plenty of reputable studies [links to studies in original] suggest that this might not be the case:
  • A 2010 study by the University of Virginia of 893,658 patients in the university hospital found that individuals on Medicaid had the worst post-surgery survival rate of any patients, including the uninsured, after controlling for age, health status, income, and other relevant factors.
  • A 2011 Journal of Heart and Lung study found that of 11,385 patients undergoing lung transplants, Medicaid patients were 8.1 percent less likely to survive than the uninsured after 10 years. They also found Medicaid insurance was a significant predictor of death within three years, after controlling for other clinical factors.
  • And then there is the famous 2013 Oregon study — the closest thing to a lab experiment in the real world — co-authored by ObamaCare architect Jonathan Gruber. It contrasted uninsured patients who were randomly assigned to Medicaid with those who remained uninsured and found that the Medicaid patients did not have significantly better outcomes for diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and even mortality.
... even if Medicaid's mortality outcomes were somewhat better for the uninsured, it would still not necessarily follow that extending the program would save lives on balance—or that eliminating the program would do the reverse. In a world with finite resources, one also has to consider the opportunity costs or other ways of spending that may potentially save more lives.

Indeed, a 2016 study in the journal Health Affairs found that states that spent a smaller portion of their budgets on Medicaid and Medicare than on social programs such as housing, nutrition, and even public transportation, showed "significant" gains on a myriad of health factors, including mortality, over states that did the reverse. It is possible that this is purely coincidental. But it may also be the case that these programs improved general quality of life and lowered stress levels, thus bettering baseline health and preventing people from falling prey to life-sapping illnesses in the first place.

And what holds true for state-level spending might be doubly true for individuals spending out-of-pocket.
But all of this requires critical thinking and that appears to be in very short supply among most Dems and more than a few in the GOP. The studies are dismissed because they don't conform to the narrative. Any attempt to reduce federal influence in medical care is dismissed because—B.I.G. is a holy writ among progressives and apparently, is accepted as a constant by too many in the GOP.

P.J. O’Rourk once said:  “The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work and then they get elected and prove it.”

POSTSCRIPT:
----------------

I'll be on vacation for the next week. See you when I return.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Klaus Eberwein

I'd wager that you don't know who Klaus Eberwein is. You've never heard him mentioned by the mainstream media even though the hamsters are always looking for conspiracies to uncover (as long as those conspiracies fit the approved Democratic narrative). Here's how Mac Slavo describes him:
Eberwein was a fierce critic of the Clinton Foundation’s activities in the Caribbean island [Haiti], where he served as director general of the government’s economic development agency, Fonds d’assistance économique et social, for three years. “The Clinton Foundation, they are criminals, they are thieves, they are liars, they are a disgrace,” Eberwein said at a protest outside the Clinton Foundation headquarters in Manhattan last year. Eberwein was due to appear on Tuesday before the Haitian Senate Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission where he was widely expected to testify that the Clinton Foundation misappropriated Haiti earthquake donations from international donors.
Boy, that testimony would be interesting and certainly embarrassing for the Dems, who have condemned anyone with the temerity to suggest that the Clinton foundation wasn't on the side of the angels.

But there's a problem.

Eberwein, age 50, was found dead in Miami with a gunshot wound to the head. Slavo provides a few details:
The circumstances surrounding Eberwein’s death are also nothing less than unpalatable. According to Miami-Dade’s medical examiner records supervisor, the official cause of death is “gunshot to the head.“ Eberwein’s death has been registered as “suicide” by the government. But not long before his death, he acknowledged that his life was in danger because he was outspoken on the criminal activities of the Clinton Foundation ...

Eberwein was only 50-years-old and reportedly told acquaintances he feared for his life because of his fierce criticism of the Clinton Foundation. His close friends and business partners were taken aback by the idea he may have committed suicide. “It’s really shocking,” said friend Gilbert Bailly. “We grew up together; he was like family.”

During and after his government tenure, Eberwein faced allegations of fraud and corruption on how the agency he headed administered funds. Among the issues was FAES’ oversight of the shoddy construction of several schools built after Haiti’s devastating Jan. 12, 2010, earthquake. But, according to Eberwein, it was the Clinton Foundation who was deeply in the wrong – and he intended to testify and prove it on Tuesday.
According to Eberwein, a paltry 0.6 percent of donations granted by international donors to the Clinton Foundation with the express purpose of directly assisting Haitians actually ended up in the hands of Haitian organizations. A further 9.6 percent ended up with the Haitian government. The remaining 89.8 percent – or $5.4 billion – was funneled to non-Haitian organizations. –WND
Eberwein was expected to testify against the Clinton Foundation in court and ends up committing suicide shortly before. Where have we heard this before?
Of course, the trained hamsters and their Democrat overlords dismiss all of this as crazy right-wing conspiracy stuff, just like the death of DNC staffer Seth Rich, the guy alleged to have leaked the DNC emails, was crazy right-wing conspiracy stuff.

It is odd, don't you think, that there are so many "suicides," and other unexplained and untimely deaths that somehow befall people who know things that might threaten the Clintons and/or the Dems. But that's crazy talk, right? It's just coincidental, right? It's not worth a look, right?

It's understandable, though, that the main stream media is silent on all of this. After all, they're dedicating all of the "journalistic" resources, 24-7, to crazy left-wing conspiracy stuff. They would never, ever consider a string of unusual deaths of people connected to the Clintons or the Democrats. Never! It's at least as crazy as suggesting that the current POTUS colluded with the Russians to defeat a Clinton. The trained hamsters and the Dems would never promulgate that kind of crazy thinking, would they?

Monday, July 17, 2017

Starving

As Democrat politicians crow about the GOP failure to repeal and replace Obamacare, they offer big intrusive government (B.I.G.) solutions for the problem. Since the Democrat's effort to insert government into healthcare has resulted in higher prices, higher deductibles and (with the exception of the "free" coverage provided to newly qualified Medicaid recipients) poorer coverage and options, the Democrats double down. What we need, they argue, is "universal health care." After all, B.I.G. did such a great job with Obamacare, it would definitely, positively, irrefutably do an even greater job with universal coverage.

But there's an even bigger issue here. It seems, as the years pass, that the Democrats are now wedded to the notion that B.I.G. is the solution to every problem, every inequity, and every need. In a way, it's a genius political strategy—give as much "free" stuff to as many people as you can, raise taxes (mostly on those who don't get the free stuff) to pay for the free stuff, disregard the deleterious economic effects (and anyway, as people struggle, it provides an opening for even more "free stuff" from B.I.G.), and finally, scream bloody murder when anyone suggests that maybe some of that free stuff is unnecessary and should be discontinued or paired back. The Dem strategy works—in the short term.

As an example, consider the Obamacare and its repeal efforts. Andrew Clark comments:
There's a common political maxim that, once passed, an entitlement can never be repealed because the resistance of those dependent on it would be too deep. Republicans' ObamaCare repeal effort is challenging this unwritten rule head-on. As they should - conservatives' timeless goals of reforming the welfare state to promote work, reigning in the budget, and limiting government, will require it.

So far, it's proving very difficult.

Left-wing activists, echoed by sympathizers in the media, are pulling out all the stops, operating a scare machine fueled by reports of people dying, of Medicaid being destroyed, of people having their insurance taken away, and anything else that makes the repeal effort sound akin to the apocalypse.

Never mind that many of these hyperbolic claims are exaggerations, downright lies, or mischaracterizations.

Also, never mind that Democrats were the ones who single-handedly foisted the unpopular ObamaCare mess on the United States in the first place, creating unstable markets with few (if any) affordable products and abusing Medicaid, which was designed as a safety net for the truly poor and disabled, by turning it into a cost-inflating vehicle for permanent universal coverage.
Obamacare is simply the latest example of a B.I.G entitlement that costs much more than promised, works more poorly than expected, and has had more negative effects on small businesses and the economy than envisioned.

In the longer term, even the most loyal Democrat should (but doesn't) recognize that as the number of entitlements grows and their costs increase, you eventually run out of other people's money. Illinois, CT, Puerto Rico and other blue states are approaching that point. But none of that matters—free stuff generated by bigger and bigger government trumps all.

A commenter ("Norbert G. Buttguster, Jr") at The Belmont Club addresses the economy, government, and their interaction this way:
Here is the analogy: Consider an island economy of fishers, farmers, artisans. One person works for the king: in the morning this worker goes to work, digs a hole, breaks for lunch, fills the hole back in that afternoon, picks up his paycheck from the King and spends it for fish, food, and shoes. The fishers, farmers, artisans, note the easy life style of the King's employee and petition the king to employ them similarly. Pretty soon the last of the fishers, farmers and artisans quits what they were doing and goes to work digging holes for King. Everybody is rich, has a good pay check, but, because no one is producing anything, they all starve to death ...
Well, at least "income inequality" would be eliminated and a "living wage" would be had by all. Too bad everyone ends up starving in the process.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Russian Dressing

Russian hysteria has risen to such heights that I'm beginning to worry.

I recently had stuffed cabbage and my wife ate some borscht. Does that make us somehow sympathetic to Vladimir Putin and his minions? What if you dine in a Russian Restaurant and speak with a waiter whose cousin still resides in Russian and has friend who works for Russian government intelligence? Would a Democratic heavyweight like Tim Kane be justified in calling you a "traitor?' What if you're foolish enough to purchase a set of Russian Matryoshka dolls. The fact that they're nesting dolls implies that there's something hidden. What are you hiding? Is it okay for your daughter to attend a gymnastics school run by an ex-Olympian who happens to be Russian and—horror of horrors—voted for Donald Trump? Is the school tainted? is your daughter? Is a congressional investigation imminent?

Why hasn't the NYT or WaPo published page one "investigative" articles that describe leaks about, say, Russian dressing being served at a White House dinner? After all, that's almost sedition, isn't it?

Silly? Sure. But no more ridiculous than the current Russian collusion meme that's all the vogue. It's all nonsense be promulgated by the four constituencies who'd like nothing better than keeping the current administration off balance.

The irony is that the same hypocrites that wail about Russia interference in our political process have accomplished what Putin could not. They have roiled our politics and impeded our domestic and foreign policy. Then again, that's exactly the objective, not only of Putin, but of the four constituencies as well.

UPDATE:
-------------------

Holman Jenkins comments on the Donald Trump Jr. story—the latest installment of Russiamania:
... after the first flush of hysteria, Don Jr. may be only half a rube for not being more sensitive to the Russian connection, which would explode in Hindenburg fashion only with the DNC email hack a few days later.

Bloomberg News suggests that Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya wasn’t bringing secrets gleaned from Russia’s “crown prosecutor,” but news she read in the Russian press. Not the Russians but a Russian was trying to peddle this info to Trump Tower, as a pretext to lobby on behalf of a wealthy Russian client.

And it wasn’t any Russian but a tubby British music publicist who babbled fourth-hand, or perhaps was apple polishing all on his own, in claiming “Russian government support” for the Trump effort.

The farcical element continues to predominate in Russiagate, including with the mostly ignored Russian influence on FBI chief James Comey’s actions.

But real trouble can flow even from a farce. Thinkers for whom Russia was just one problem in a world full of problems, who previously did not identify Moscow as the No. 1 enemy, now do so, vociferously, for fear of being lumped in with Mr. Trump as a traitor to America or some such.

A mob is a machine for mass-producing cowards and bullies. That’s where we are now. Just turn on cable TV.
The "mob"—a.k.a. the four constituencies—would be laughable in its actions, if it wasn't so dangerous. There is no problem with criticizing a sitting president, but this goes fat beyond critique. It is an attempt at a slow motion coup, and it is despicable for its intent, its hypocrisy, and its dishonesty.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Pensions

Those of us who have been self-employed or run small businesses cannot rely on pension plans offered by someone else. Our retirement security is in our hands. If we're responsible, we establish a 401-K, Keogh plan, SEP-IRA, or even a simple IRA, fund it regularly with relatively small amounts, and over time, build up a retirement nest egg. But if we act irresponsibly, if we don't "fund" any of those plans ourselves, we're left with a few uncomfortable options: (1) continue working until we drop; (2) live on meager social security income, or (3) rely on savings and/or other assets that may be inadequate. The decision is ours, and the benefits or problems are defined by what we do.

In the corporate sector, there are stringent laws the define how pension plans are created and funded. A company MUST show proof that it is adequately funding it retirement plans. When it negotiates plans with a union, it has an incentive to balance fairness with cost, because it will have to bear that cost long term.

And now we come to government. Everything changes. Politicians negotiate with public sector unions (you know, the people whose votes they need to get re-elected). They invariably offer exceedingly generous pension plans. They then avoid fully funding those plans (it's legal to do so if you're government), hoping that the bill will come due on someone else's watch.

Consider Illinois, a blue state with pension liabilities of somewhere between $150 and $230 billion that is only 38 percent funded. That's trouble ... big, big trouble. When a few responsible IL politicians tried to moderate pension benefits, the state Supreme Court (appointed by progressives) said no, they must be paid out as is. The court didn't provide guidance as to how that might be done.

The editors of USA Today comment:
... in many ways Illinois is simply the poster child for what is wrong with states. They are supposedly the providers of education, roads, parks, mass transit and public safety, among other services to their residents. But their real purpose in many instances has been to appease militant public sector labor unions.

Unions representing public workers have managed to persuade state agencies to reward them with gold-plated pension plans, and in some cases, retiree health care. These plans have been agreed to with little or no public input, or understanding by bureaucrats and lawmakers who know they will not around when the bills come due.

The most generous states are Alaska, California, Colorado and Nevada, where the average career worker pulls in more than $60,000 annually and many take in six figures. Those in the worst fiscal shape are Illinois, Kentucky, Connecticut, Alaska and Kansas.

What is most inexplicable about all of this is that progressive groups and progressive voters continue to support public sector unions even as make off with the family jewels.

The vast sums states are forced to throw into pension systems erode their ability to provide good public education, safe streets and livable communities — all goals deeply cherished by progressives.

Roughly a quarter of the entire Illinois budget in recent years has gone to funding pensions. And yet,all this money has done is slow the rate of decline of its financial outlook.

It is time for Americans to recognize the troubling fiscal plight in many states. Perhaps when Illinois or other states like it finally hit a fiscal wall, voters will wake up to the calamity that awaits them.
The irony in all of this is that the taxpayers, who will be squeezed to fund pension payouts on a day to day basis, have only one way to alleviate their burden—leave. And they're doing that in increasing numbers—the term "tax refugees" come to mind.

What IL and CT, CA and AK, KY and KS face is a fiscal calamity, brought on by irresponsible politicians, greedy unions that put their own workers in serious jeopardy, and laws that don't hold the government to the same standards as the rest of us. Pathetic.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

All That Matters

In honesty, there's not much left to say about the Russia hysteria, this week exemplified by the Donald Trump Jr. non-story. A private citizen and son of a presidential candidate hears that a Russian lawyer has dirt of Hillary Clinton and accepts a meeting with her. It was a rookie mistake, compounded by the fact that Trump. Jr. expressed enthusiasm about getting the information, but that's all it was. No information was passed, no actions were taken, no follow-up occurred. But ... Russia!!!

In fairness, Donald Trump and his people have done little to help themselves where Russia is concerned. By declaring that there were absolutely no contacts with the Russians, they have allowed the trained hamsters of the media to find even the most trivial meetings (with anyone who has as much Russian heritage as Liz Warren has American Indian heritage) and trumpet those as scandalous. Trump himself is brash, loud, imprecise and pugnacious and has relatively little control over his foolish impulse to punch back against criticism from meaningless people (think: Joe and Mika). But none of that changes one basic truth—all of the hysteria, all of the accusations, all of the innuendo, all of the leaks, all of the breathless stories by so-called journalists have lead to zero evidence of criminal wrong doing, and frankly, very little that is even ethically questionable.

With hindsight, the meeting between Trump, Jr. and the Russian lawyer (who, it appears was allowed to enter the USA under a special visa offered by the Obama administration and seemed to be a friend of administration officials ... hmmm) and its outcome should have been disclosed, given the current McCarthyeque atmosphere in which every association by anyone even tangentially connected to President Donald Trump, every contact he or any of his people ever made, every word every written by anyone in the administration or connected to it, is parsed by an army of "journalists" for COLLUSION. The Trump, Jr. meeting wasn't even close to "collusion," but the Dems and their media hamsters are having a field day with yet another 'smoking gun' ... that isn't.

Meanwhile the Democrats, who never saw a Russian story they didn't like (except the ones that indicate that Hillary Clinton was closer to the Ruskies that one might imagine or that the Ruskies "colluded" with groups favored by the Dems), are talking "treason." That. Is. Unhinged. But what else is new?

Michael Goodwin comments:
Near the end of its Tuesday story on Donald Trump Jr.’s meeting with a Russian lawyer, the New York Times casually noted that the news “blunted whatever good feeling the president’s team had after his trip to Europe.”

Excuse me, but wasn’t blunting the president’s success the whole point of the latest installment of the Russia, Russia, Russia story?

Isn’t that why the leakers leaked when they did, and why the Times splashed the story on its front page day after day?

Excuse the cynicism, but there is a relentless pattern, and we don’t need a crystal ball to see the future. It looks like the past and the present. No better, no worse, just more of the same.

A year from now, Donald Trump still will be president and the media and the permanent bureaucracy still will be hounding him in a ruthless bid to drive him from office.

In responding to the attacks, Trump and his team will make numerous mistakes, none fatal, but the accumulation will take a toll on his presidency.

Drip, drip, drip goes the optimism.

That’s what we’re witnessing now, with another round of toxic mud masquerading as bombshell news overshadowing all other issues, from North Korea to tax reform.
But let's take a step back. It looks like all of this will continue throughout the Trump presidency. The intent is obvious—the four constituencies would like nothing better than to cripple the current administration, to foil any attempt at legislation that might actually improve a failing health care system, resurrect a moribund economy, correct a tax system that does far more economic and fiscal harm than good, and yes, drain the Big Intrusive Government swamp. In the meantime, foreign actors who in the short term are at least as menacing than Russia (NoKo, Iran, and Islamic extremists come to mind) grow in strength.

But none of those things matter. All that matters is that Trump is destroyed. The country? Well, it'll just have to wait until more enlightened left-wing politicians, rising from the wreckage they worked quite hard to create, lead it on a road the ends in Venezuela or maybe with another "Iran deal."

UPDATE-1:
----------------------
Michael Tracy does a good job of describing the meta-characteristics of every Trump bombshell released by the likes of NYT or WaPo and then beat to death by the trained hamsters in the main steam media:
The basic formula for every breaking Trump/Russia story is essentially as follows:
  • The New York Times or Washington Post releases an article that at first blush appears extremely damning.
  • Anti-Trump pundits and Democrats react reflexively to the news, express shrieking outrage, and proclaim that this finally proves untoward collusion between Trump and Russia — a smoking gun, at last.
  • Aggrieved former Clinton apparatchiks *connect the dots* in a manner eerily reminiscent of right-wing Glenn Beck-esque prognostication circa 2009.
  • Self-proclaimed legal experts rashly opine as to whether the new revelation entails some kind of criminally actionable offense. (Recall the now-laughable certitude that felled National Security Advisor Mike Flynn violated the 200+ year old Logan Act.). . .
  • The notion of Russian “collusion” being key to toppling Trump becomes further implanted in the minds of the most energized Democratic activists. . . .
  • Pointing out these glaring flaws in the latest anti-Russia frenzy is immediately construed by cynics as “defending Trump” or “defending Sessions” when it most assuredly is not. At least in my own case, it’s a defense of not getting enraptured by irrational hysterics to further short-term political aims.
  • People who’d spent the past 12 hours frothing at the mouth gradually come to realize that their initial furor was probably overblown, and that a more sober look at the actual facts at hand reveal that the anti-Trump chorus probably got ahead of itself…again.
I agree with Tracy. Criticism of the unhinged behavior of the Dems and other members of the four constituencies is not "defending Trump." Rather, it is a defense of critical thinking and rationality, while at the same time condemning the blatant hypocrisy ("irrational hysterics to further short-term political aims") and downright insanity that is driven by Trump Derangement Syndrome.

UPDATE-2
--------------------

CNN has become a journalist joke. Its bias is so extreme, it reporting is so shoddy, and its commentary is so unhinged that watching it make you stupid. Having said that, the reality is that CNN represents the attitude of almost all of the main stream media, only taken to the extreme.

Alex Xenos writes:
As CNN continues their crusade to bring down the Trump presidency, New Day spent 93 percent of their three-hour program Wednesday covering Donald Trump Jr. and the Trump campaign's supposed collusion with Russia. The other seven percent was spent on baseball (~1.5%) and negative coverage of the GOP's healthcare bill (~5.5%).

No one is arguing that this revelation should not be covered, but when you spend 93 percent of your time talking about it, it shows an obsession, not an objective news judgment.
In a way, it's kind of sad to watch a once reliable news organization devolve into unwatchable garbage. TDS is a powerful force.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Privilege

David Brooks is an opinion writer for The New York Times. Unlike most of his fellow writers at NYT (e.g., Charles Blow, Paul Krugman), his thoughts are generally well-constructed and his arguments are worth considering. But in a recent article, Brooks falls under the influence of his more progressive colleagues and adopts the meme that "privilege" is the new demon that keeps all others from achieving the American dream. He writes:
Over the past generation, members of the college-educated class have become amazingly good at making sure their children retain their privileged status. They have also become devastatingly good at making sure the children of other classes have limited chances to join their ranks.

How they’ve managed to do the first task — giving their own children a leg up — is pretty obvious. It’s the pediacracy, stupid. Over the past few decades, upper-middle-class Americans have embraced behavior codes that put cultivating successful children at the center of life. As soon as they get money, they turn it into investments in their kids.

Upper-middle-class moms have the means and the maternity leaves to breast-feed their babies at much higher rates than high school-educated moms, and for much longer periods.

Upper-middle-class parents have the means to spend two to three times more time with their preschool children than less affluent parents. Since 1996, education expenditures among the affluent have increased by almost 300 percent, while education spending among every other group is basically flat.
And this is something new—how?

Class stratification has been a reality since humans began to record their history. Any lamentation about its existence or suggestion that it must be eliminated it is not only unrealistic, it exemplifies a disconnect with reality.

I don't know Brooks' background, but if he has, in fact, just discovered that "privilege" exists, he's been living in a bubble.

Like millions of other Americans, I grew up in a lower middle class family in a two-story walk-up in a mill town in the Northeast. Our schools were poor and had few resources (36+ kids in a class) and our neighborhoods were gritty. "After school activities" involved going out into the street (without any semblance of adult supervision) to play ball as we dodged traffic. We moderated our own conflicts. We learned very early that life isn't fair and accepted that without too much complaint.

At the same time, our more affluent (upper middle class) contemporaries lived in upscale communities with far better schools and far more opportunities. Those of us in the mill town were persona non grata in those more affluent communities. We were, in effect, like the ragamuffin who presses his nose against the window of a fine restaurant, envying the fine food and the elegant diners.

And yet, we didn't whine about "privilege."

Millions of us pushed forward and created good lives for ourselves, despite the disadvantages of a lower middle class upbringing. Many of us became tradespeople, some became white collar workers, others started businesses, a reasonable number were college graduates and more than a few—doctors, lawyers, and engineers. A few of us even became members of the 1 percent. We did this despite the reality that Brooks laments. Sure, some of us didn't make it, ending up in dead-end jobs or far worse, in prison or dead. But sadly, that's also reality.

Suggestions that "privilege" is (to use Brooks' words) "ruining America," would lead one to believe that America has been "ruined" since the 1700s. If that's the case, how has this country achieved so much, provided opportunity and advancement for so many, and become the preferred destination for the tens of millions who have immigrated here?

I suppose that the American dream is, in effect, the journey toward the "privilege" that is earned by traits that some have forgotten—hard work, and the character to accept small (or large) defeats and keep moving toward a goal that each of us must define for ourselves.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Oikophobia—Revisited

Kurt Schlichter is a conservative writer who is not afraid to take strong positions against leftist ideology. When he voices his views, progressives label his comments as alt-Right and bigoted. But Schlichter is not what the trained hamsters in the media call "alt-Right." He is not a racist or a bigot, but he is unafraid to attack the Left with ferocity and humor.

Here's Kurt Schlichter on Donald Trump's clearly stated position that the West has given far more to humanity than it has taken:
Let me throw down this marker: The West is superior to the rest of the world in every significant way, we should aggressively back our allies over our enemies, and the guiding principle of our foreign policy should always be America’s interests. No apologies. No equivocation. No doubt.

What are your questions?

Well, if you're a normal American, you won't have any questions - these truths are self-evident. But if you're a progressive, you're gonna have a little sissy snit fit like so many libs did in the wake of the President’s triumphant Warsaw speech. There’s one thing that always sets them off - uttering the truth/heresy that not only is Western civilization the best and most advanced culture in the history of humanity, but the United States of America is its greatest manifestation.

The immigrants and refugees get it. Which way are they always headed? North, to the comparative paradise of the Western world, or south, to the hellscape of the Third World? That's a gimme. They are never headed south, and everyone knows it. Yet the left still insists that we stop believing our lying eyes and start believing the liberal Fifth Column of multicultural liars infesting America’s alleged elite.

Except our eyes aren’t lying, and now we have a President who won’t lie either. It makes them nuts.
Schlichter's comments are driven by the Left's reaction to Donald Trump's speech in Poland—a speech that defended the West and suggested that our values and accomplishments should be vigorously defended. Many on the Left, not surprisingly, had a different view, calling the speech an "alt-Right, white nationalist" screed. Heh.

Rod Dreher responds:
You can say this for Donald Trump: he’s great at useless provocation, but sometimes his provocations are helpful by what they force his opponents to reveal. The Warsaw speech was stunning in this way. I’m glad I read it before I read any of the left-liberal comment on it, else I might have thought it had been drafted by Dr. Goebbels ...

... An American president, standing in the capital of a nation that suffered in the last century the domination of two tyrannies — Nazi and Communist — that tried to eradicate its culture, a nation whose Catholic faith kept its spirit alive and led to its rebirth — proclaims that there are things unique and valuable about Western civilization, and that we should remember those things, affirm them, and defend them.

The shocking thing here is that this is controversial at all. It shows how decadent we have become.
Dreher goes on to quote a variety of leftist commentators whose unhinged accusations of "white nationalist rhetoric" or "white nationalist dog whistles" would have you think that Trump was a card carrying member of the KKK.

As Dreher correctly states, Trump Derangement Syndrome causes members of the Left to allow their masks to fall. For just a moment, we get to see behind those masks, and what becomes painfully obvious is a sometimes vicious contempt for the countries they live in and the majority of the people who populate them, for the established culture and prevailing laws in those countries. But why do so many leftists feel that way?

A number of years ago, James Taranto of the WSJ popularized an obscure word—oikophobia.

To provide context, some may recall the uproar in 2010 when Muslims tried to place a mosque near the site of the 9/11 World Trade Center attack. At the time Taranto wrote:
If you think it's offensive for a Muslim group to exploit the 9/11 atrocity, you're an anti-Muslim bigot and un-American to boot. It is a claim [made by the left] so bizarre, so twisted, so utterly at odds with common sense that it's hard to believe anyone would assert it except as some sort of dark joke. Yet for the past few weeks, it has been put forward, apparently in all seriousness, by those who fancy themselves America's best and brightest, from the mayor of New York all the way down to Peter Beinart.
After examining the manner in which many progressives defended the mosque at the time, he wrote:
The British philosopher Roger Scruton has coined a term to describe this attitude: oikophobia. Xenophobia is fear of the alien; oikophobia is fear of the familiar: "the disposition, in any conflict, to side with 'them' against 'us', and the felt need to denigrate the customs, culture and institutions that are identifiably 'ours.' " What a perfect description of the pro-mosque left.

Scruton was writing in 2004, and his focus was on Britain and Europe, not America. But his warning about the danger of oikophobes--whom he amusingly dubs "oiks"--is very pertinent on this side of the Atlantic today, and it illuminates how what are sometimes dismissed as mere matters of "culture" tie in with economic and social policy:
The oik repudiates national loyalties and defines his goals and ideals against the nation, promoting transnational institutions over national governments, accepting and endorsing laws that are imposed on us from on high by the EU or the UN, though without troubling to consider Terence's question, and defining his political vision in terms of universal values that have been purified of all reference to the particular attachments of a real historical community.

The oik is, in his own eyes, a defender of enlightened universalism against local chauvinism. And it is the rise of the oik that has led to the growing crisis of legitimacy in the nation states of Europe. For we are seeing a massive expansion of the legislative burden on the people of Europe, and a relentless assault on the only loyalties that would enable them voluntarily to bear it. The explosive effect of this has already been felt in Holland and France. It will be felt soon everywhere, and the result may not be what the oiks expect.
There is one important difference between the American oik and his European counterpart. American patriotism is not a blood-and-soil nationalism but an allegiance to a country based in an idea of enlightened universalism. Thus our oiks masquerade as--and may even believe themselves to be--superpatriots, more loyal to American principles than the vast majority of Americans, whom they denounce as "un-American" for feeling an attachment to their actual country as opposed to a collection of abstractions.

Yet the oiks' vision of themselves as an intellectual aristocracy violates the first American principle ever articulated: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal . . ."

This cannot be reconciled with the elitist notion that most men are economically insecure bitter clinging intolerant bigots who need to be governed by an educated elite. Marxism Lite is not only false; it is, according to the American creed, self-evidently false. That is why the liberal elite finds Americans revolting.
Kurt Schlichter describes a problem that James Taranto identified 7 years ago. Rod Dreher notes its present day manifestation. Maybe the Left should add just one more "phobia" to the long list of epithets that they hurl at others—"oikophobia." And then ... they should apply it to themselves.

WWE

The Democrats and their trained hamsters in the media are now in their third day of breathless reports and "investigations" of an inconsequential meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer. That's right ... she was a RUSSIAN! OMG!!

In the fever swamp of Trump Derangement Syndrome, all of this proves that Trump and the Russians were colluding to beat Hillary Clinton ... so there!

As I watched the trained hamsters scurry across my TV screen, breathless with "journalistic" optimism that impeachment was just around the corner, I couldn't help thinking of the millions who are fans of the WWE—World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. The Dems and their trained hamsters in the media are like the rabid fans of the WWE. They cheer with every fake kick, they gasp with every fake take down, they grit their teeth when the fake villain prevails. They idolize their fake heroes and hate the fake villains.

Deep down, I suspect that most of the wrestling fans know the WWE is fake, but they want to believe it's real so badly that they suspend disbelief. The same is true of most (but not all) Dems.

The media for its part plays the role of WWE announcers and commentators, who NEVER break type—they act and talk as if everything you seen in the fake matches they stage is entirely real. They get emotional as they discuss the offenses of the fake WWE villains and they become nostalgic thinking about a deposed fake heroine. She wasn't beaten fairly, they argue, nefarious fake forces helped the fake villain defeat her.

This is particularly amusing because I suspect that many progressives smile condescendingly when they think about actual WWE fans. Oh how silly, they think, these "deplorables" believe something so fake is so real. How pathetic!

All you can do is shake your head and laugh.

UPDATE:
-----------------

By now, even the most casual observer of the Democrat/Progressive reaction to Donald Trump's election victory would indicate that the Left doesn't like to lose—and when it does, it looks for any reason other than their candidate or their policies. Today, as Trump Derangement Syndrome reaches a new high (see main post above), historian Victor Davis Hansen notes that things were much the same after the election of George W. Bush:
In truth we are back to 2004-2008, when the Left did to George W. Bush what it is now doing to Donald Trump.

Assassination? Alfred A. Knopf published Nicholson Baker’s novel, Checkpoint, about characters fantasizing how to kill Bush. A guest columnist in the Guardian, Charlie Brooker, wrote to his British readers on the eve of the election fearing that if Bush were reelected, there would be no assassin to shoot him: “John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr.—where are you now that we need you?”

Do we remember filmmaker Gabriel Range’s “Death of a President,” the docudrama about Bush’s assassination that was a favorite at the Toronto Film Festival? Cindy Sheehan wrote she wished to go back into time to kill a younger Bush before he could be president.


Trump as Hitler or Mussolini is a Bush retread. Well before Trump, everyone got into the fascist/Nazi act, from Sens. Robert Byrd and John Glenn to celebrities like Linda Ronstadt and Garrison Keillor.

Hate? Jonathan’s Chait infamous New Republic article began: “I hate President George W. Bush. There, I said it.”

Do we remember the delusions of Howard Dean, who foamed, “I hate the Republicans and everything they stand for”?


Even decapitation chic is not new. After Bush left office, his detached head appeared on a stake in an episode of “Game of Thrones”; had they tried the same with Barack Obama, the hit show would have gone off the air.

Yet there is one difference. The Bush Administration, to paraphrase Michelle Obama, went high as progressives went low, and thus chose not to respond in kind. The result in part was that a battered Bush accordingly left office demonized, with a scant 34 percent approval rating.

The difference with Trump hatred is not some unique intensity or prior provocation, but rather Trump’s singular counter-punching.
I think that analysis is correct. Trump does many things that are crass; he enters into flame wars on Ywitter that are wholy ridiculous; he is often imprecise in his official language, and he bends the truth much in the same way that Barack Obama did. All of that is true. But when he is attacked viciously by members of the Left, he punches back with viciousness, and the intellectual bullies don't like that one bit. He lives rent free in their heads, making them act like fans of the WWE.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Calling Them Out

As the Democratic party veers increasingly further to the left, it risks becoming closely associated with many leftish groups that are virulently anti-Israel, and by association, anti-Semitic. Recall that the co-chair of the DNC, Keith Ellison, has been accused (in this blog) and by many, many others, of being blatantly anti-Israel and a closet anti-Semite. The fact that the Dems gladly nominated him to a leadership position within the party is indicative of a rot that is only growing.

Jonathan A. Greenblatt, a progressive himself, notes a few of recent instances of anti-Israel/anti-Semitic actions among the Dems and their progressive allies:
Last weekend, organizers of a gay pride parade in Chicago ejected three people carrying pride flags emblazoned with a Jewish Star of David. Subsequent bizarre statements attempting to rationalize their action, claiming that Zionism is “an inherently "white supremacist ideology” ...

Last summer, a plank in the platform of the Movement for Black Lives bizarrely accused Israel of "genocide" ...

Linda Sarsour, a leader of the women’s rights movement, has lambasted Zionism as incompatible with feminism and advocates for the exclusion of pro-Israel Jews from activist groups.
Sarsour's claim is particularly rich given the long and sordid history of Islam's oppression of women and other minorities, but hypocrisy has never been something that gives the Left pause.

Given that he is a true progressive, Greenblatt is certain to note his general support of the LGBTQ community, Black Lives Matter, and the "Muslim community," but then he goes on to write:
On the other hand, when hatred comes from individuals in those very communities or organizations for whom we advocate, we are duty bound to raise our voice. In recent times, anger over specific policies of the Israeli government has been used by some activists to excuse broad anti-Semitism directed at members of the Jewish community. In some cases, we have seen painful rhetoric unfold on college campuses or outright exclusion of self-identified Jews from progressive circles simply because of their faith. All of it is inexcusable.
I get the feeling that Greenblatt is conflicted. It's likely that progressivism is his true religion, but he is becoming increasingly uneasy with a virulent Leftist strain that looks more like 1933 Germany than a 21st century utopian multicultural world. It's equally likely that deep down, he worries that his ideology and party will move to a place that rejects him as a Jew and Israel as a country—all in the name of "social justice." The left tells us to reject a laundry list (e.g., bigotry, racism, Islamophobia, misogyny) that they see as the driving tenets of the "deplorables." But at the same time, far too many progressives and a growing number of Democrats acquiesce to or blatantly practice the analogs of that laundry list when it comes to Israel. To his credit, Jonathan Greenblatt has the courage to call them out.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Leaks

The "deep state" is among the four constituencies who are dedicated to thwart the Trump administration in everything it attempts to accomplish. Many unelected, full-time bureaucrats and workers throughout the government are rabidly anti-Trump. They worry that his "Drain the Swamp" rhetoric will threaten their positions and power, so they have an affinity to the Democrats and their love of big government.

The weapon of the deep state is the leak—the illegal or unethical release of sensitive (and sometimes secret) information with the intent of embarrassing the current administration. The trained hamsters in the main stream media encourage the leaks, suggesting that by publishing them, they do a service to the American people. The fact they are yet another member of the four constituencies makes that claim just a little suspect.

Kim Strassel writes about the media's obsession with leaks along with special counsel Robert Meuller far-less-that-bi-partisan "investigation":
Today’s Washington is overrun by two kinds of crimes.

The first is the still-speculative kind, which the Washington press corps obsesses over— Trump -Russia collusion, obstruction of justice—despite no evidence of its existence. By all accounts, special counsel Robert Mueller’s growing team of Democratic lawyers intends to devote itself to this fiction.

Yet if Mr. Mueller were serious about bringing down a threat to the nation, or even carving himself a place in history, he’d be tackling the second kind of crime, the real kind. These are the crimes that occur constantly and actually harm national security, even if they’re routinely ignored by a self-interested media. We are talking of course about the serial leaking of sensitive information, the daily profession of a new government elite akin to an organized crime network ...

Lucky for Mr. Mueller, he doesn’t even need his army of legal investigators to get an immediate handle on this mafia. He can instead stroll down to the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs. That’s the purview of Sen. Ron Johnson, who keeps dogged oversight of government among his many self-set tasks.

That mission resulted this week in a shocking staff analysis of the recent deluge of secret-spilling, and the manner in which these unauthorized disclosures are harming national security. It’s the first congressional scrutiny of the leaks—and notable for its straight-up nature. This is no partisan document. It’s a bloodless accounting of a national-security failure, perpetrated by dozens of government employees willfully breaking the law.

The first 126 days of the Trump administration featured 125 stories that leaked harmful information. Just under one a day. The committee staff judged the stories against a 2009 Barack Obama executive order that laid out what counted as information likely to damage national security. And as it chose to not include borderline leaks or “palace intrigue” stories, that number is an understatement.

For reference, the first 126 days of the Obama term featured 18 stories that met the criteria. Ten of those were actually leaks about George W. Bush’s “torture memo,” which Mr. Obama released.
So in reality, the deep state leaked 15 times more often in Trump's first six months than in Obama's. Note, by the way, that during Obama's first six months the "Fast and Furious" gun running scandal was in its formative stages (no leaks), the IRS had already begun targeting opponents of Obama (no leaks), and moves were afoot to normalize relations with Iran (no leaks) and the Obama administration began to distance itself from our best ally in the Middle East, Israel (no leaks). Hmmm.

Strassel goes on the indicate the types of information that has been leaked:
What’s been disclosed? The contents of wiretapped information. The names of individuals the U.S. monitors, and where they are located. The communications channels used to monitor targets. Which agencies are monitoring. Intelligence intercepts. FBI interviews. Grand jury subpoenas. Secret surveillance-court details. Internal discussions. Military operations intelligence. The contents of the president’s calls with foreign leaders.
As Strassel correctly notes, the real scandal is the leaks, and Robert Mueller should focus there. He won't, of course, because in a way, Mueller a charter member of the deep state.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Starbucks and Chick-fil-a

Way back in 2012, the fast food chain, Chick-fil-a, took a position that was aggressively anti-same sex marriage. Wikipedia provides a brief summary:
The Chick-fil-A same-sex marriage controversy was a controversial topic focused around the American fast food restaurant Chick-fil-A following a series of public comments made in June 2012 by chief operating officer Dan T. Cathy opposing same-sex marriage.

This followed reports that Chick-fil-A's charitable endeavor, the S. Truett Cathy-operated WinShape Foundation, had donated millions of dollars to political organizations seen by LGBT activists as hostile to LGBT rights.
The main stream media spent weeks reporting the story and correctly criticized Chic-fil-a for its positions. Progressives and the main stream media rightly condemned the restaurant chain and called for boycotts. Chick-fil-a's position was viewed by many as a form of bigotry that used religion as a justification.

This morning, the Associated Press reports:
Muslim groups in Malaysia and Indonesia have called for a boycott of Starbucks because of the coffee chain's support for LGBT rights.

Malaysian group Perkasa, which supports a hard-line form of Islam and nationalism, this week called on its more than 500,000 members to stay away from Starbucks coffee shops. This week and last, leaders of Indonesia's second largest mainstream Muslim group, Muhammadiyah, with an estimated 29 million members, denounced the chain.

The groups were apparently reacting to comments made several years ago by former CEO Howard Schultz in support of gay rights that drew renewed attention amid an increasingly anti-LGBT climate in both of the predominantly Muslim countries ...

Perkasa said in a statement that the Malaysian government should revoke the trading license given to Starbucks and other companies such as Microsoft and Apple that support LGBT rights and same-sex marriage.

Amini Amir Abdullah, who heads Perkasa's Islamic affairs bureau, said Muslims should stay away from Starbucks because its pro-gay rights policy is against Islam and Malaysia's constitution.
Here, again, we have a situation in which bigotry uses religion as a justification. But in this case, a pseudo-protected class is advocating the bigotry. The question is this: Will progressives and their trained hamsters in the mainstream media spend as much time criticizing the Muslim proponents of this bigotry as they spent criticizing Chick-fil-a. One would hope they would, but so far, the usual suspects such as CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC, NYT, LAT, WaPo, MSNBC have been relatively quiet on this matter—no panel discussions, no talking heads, no interviews with U.S.-based Muslim leaders to ask whether they condemn the actions in Indonesia, no questions directed at ex-President Barack Obama, who lived in Indonesia as a youth, about how he views the actions of these Muslim groups. Why is that?

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Niccolo and the NoKos

For decades, U.S. Presidents have made weak attempts to control the nuclear ambitions of the Hermit Kingdom—North Korea (NoKo). Some have naively tried to negotiate a cessation in nuclear/missile development, forgetting that good faith negotiations with bad/dishonest/unhinged actors never lead to a satisfactory result. Others have tried sanctions, gone to a feckless U.N. (whose resolutions are a joke), or tried to get the NoKo patron, China, to intercede. Nothing has worked.

Through this, the Kim dynasty has extracted billions in aid with hollow promises to behave, using the money to further develop it military while allowing its people to (literally) starve. NoKo, like Iran* in the Middle East, poses a legitimate threat to the West and a growing threat to our allies in the region. Yet every president from Reagan to Obama has kicked the can down the road.

We're now at the end of the road. Donald Trump is left to clean up this mess, and the clean up will be anything by easy.

Claudia Rosett expresses the frustration of many when she writes:
Enough, already. There is no safe way to end the North Korean menace, but the threats from Kim Jong Un's regime are amplifying at a clip that suggests it is even more dangerous to allow the Kim regime to carry on. While the world has watched, for years — and while the United Nations Security Council has passed one sanctions resolution after another — North Korea has not only been carrying out ballistic missile and nuclear tests, but enriching uranium and reprocessing plutonium to amass ever more bomb fuel. As the Journal editorial also notes, North Korea by now "has an estimated 20 nuclear warheads as well as chemical and biological weapons."

The threat is not solely that North Korea — well versed in shakedown rackets — could target the U.S. with nuclear-tipped ICBMs, or that North Korea can add nuclear weapons to the massive arsenal with which it has long threatened Seoul.

A further danger is that North Korea could proliferate its advancing nuclear missile technology, or even the weapons themselves, to other rogue states, such as Iran — with which Pyongyang has trafficked and cooperated for decades in missile development, and according to some press accounts, in nuclear weapons development as well.
One has to wonder how someone like Niccolo Machiavelli might handle the NoKo situation. Let me channel The Prince for a moment and give it a try:
When a Prince is faced with an implacable enemy who means him harm, but is precluded from acting directly against the enemy (for whatever reasons), it is best to look elsewhere for a solution. Look to the enemy's friends and benefactors. Speak with them in private, offering benefits or punishments, depending on the atmosphere of the meeting. If possible, purchase their allegiance with offers that will make them act against the best interests of the enemy. Any moneys spent will be far smaller than the cost of war.

If necessary, threaten punishments that will hurt the interests of enemy's friends and benefactors, their power, and their wealth. But do not make empty threats. Threats of punishment once made must be executed without delay.

And if the Prince asks, "What if my overtures to my enemy's friends and benefactors fail.

Then answer -- make overtures to the enemies of your enemy's friends and benefactors. Provide them with weapons or other benefits that will cause your enemy's friends and benefactors alarm or danger.Then ask your enemy's friends and benefactors to reconsider their position.

At the same time, work to undermine the enemy, sabotaging his trade with others, his banking activities and the allegiance of his own people. Go quiet. Do not respond to your enemy's provocations. Your silence may make him pause.

And if the Prince asks, "What if all of these things fail?"

Then answer -- act to destroy the enemy with no remorse. Do it with the full power that is available to the Prince and accept the consequences, no matter how severe. If the threat is allowed to grow, the consequences will be far, far worse for the Prince.

To do nothing but to use words, to delay in the hope that things will resolve themselves, or to hope that other might intercede are all signs of weakness that strengthen the enemy and causes him to act against the Prince's best interests.
It appears that Donald Trump and his senior advisors have channeled the same imaginary Machiavellian quote. Let's hope they follow it without waivering.

Footnote:
----------------------

* Barack Obama's "Iran Deal" has put the same nuclear threat into play in the Middle East. His irresponsible and clearly ineffective appeasement of the Mullahs will present future presidents with the same bleak options that currently face Donald Trump. Shame!

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

CT-Update

In yet another triumph of the blue model for state governance, my native CT failed to reach an agreement on a state budget (this, BTW, is required by law). Like IL, a state that is careening toward something like bankruptcy, CT is in serious financial trouble. This has occurred after many decades of Democratic governance and is described by Brittany De Lea:
Despite having a per capita personal income that is more than 143% of the national average—according to Moody’s— the state’s economy continues to lag behind others. Revenue shortfalls in the state register around $450 million for the current fiscal year alone, while estimated deficit totals are projected to clock in near $5 billion for the 2018 and 2019 fiscal years combined, according to The Connecticut Business & Industry Association. Debt outstanding levels and unfunded pension liabilities relative to revenues are among the highest of any state in the country, Moody’s Investors Service said in May.

The three major rating firms have downgraded the state’s credit rating in response to the ongoing budget crisis. In its most recent downgrade, which landed Connecticut with the third-lowest rating out of every state behind only New Jersey and Illinois. Moody's said “the downgrades reflect continuing erosion of Connecticut's finances, evidenced by the pending elimination of its rainy day fund, growing budget gaps and rising debt levels.”

Connecticut's financial despair comes despite the state government’s approval of one of its largest tax rate increases ever in 2015, which has had a negative impact on some business investment.
But ... but .... but ... progressives keep telling us that tax increases have no economic impact and that "the rich" MUST pay their fair share." In other words, raising taxes and demonizing "the rich" are somehow the solution to profligate state spending, a state bureaucracy that has grown while the state population has declined, and crazy pension agreements that never had a hope of being properly funded.

Later this year, the federal budget and tax reform at a national level will become hot topics. I can guarantee that Bernie and Liz, Nancy and Al will become hysterical when tax cuts are discussed. They'll rant about the unfair benefits for "the rich" and whine about spending "cuts" that are actually nothing more than decreases in the increase in spending. They'll tell the 20 percent of taxpayers who pay 80+ percent of all income taxes collected that we just don't pay our fair share. They'll condemn any suggestion that programs can be cut or that entitlements are out of control. They'll adopt the same language and the same hysteria that got IL and CT into so much trouble—and their trained hamsters in the media will allow their ridiculous claims to go unexamined.

When all of this comes to pass, just remember that the blue model, coupled with the Democrats' tax and spend governance philosophy that has gotten IL and CT into so much fiscal trouble. If Bernie and Liz, Nancy and Al have their way, it will be the same party and the same governance philosophy that will lead the United States to fiscal ruin.

Sunday, July 02, 2017

Fake News—Revisited, Again

Over the past decade I have written extensively about the left-wing bias of the main stream media. Glen Reynolds refers to so-called journalists at ABC, CNN, CBS, NBC, Univision, YahooNews, the NYT, LAT, Boston Globe, or WaPo (to name only a few media sources) as "Democratic operatives with by-lines." He's not wrong. As time passed and their reporting became more and more outrageous, the term "fake news" became an accurate description of their work.

Back in February I discussed the meta-characteristics of fake news and suggested that it is not only blatant and pervasive, but that it does an enormous disservice to the country. It is propaganda, and the media types that peddle it are propagandists.

Andrew Klaven describes his own set of three meta-characteristics of fake news in this recent video:



Unless you are in serious and deep denial, it's pretty hard to argue with Klaven's assessment.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

A Start

The entrenched federal bureaucracy, sometimes referred to as the "deep state," never much likes anyone who suggests that it can be downsized. For that reason, the deep state is one of many constituencies who panicked when Donald Trump began talking about "draining the swamp"—a metaphor that implies that federal inefficiency, corruption, and waste can only be eliminated if the denizens of the swamp (the bureacracy) are reduced in number (and influence). Is it really coincidental that the idea of draining the swamp (DTS) has caused some in the deep state to suffer from Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS)? Hmmm. DTS --> TDS.

James Freeman writes about a past State Department poobah. The poobah penned an article in Politico in which he writes:
As I walked through the halls once stalked by diplomatic giants like Dean Acheson and James Baker, the deconstruction was literally visible. Furniture from now-closed offices crowded the hallways. Dropping in on one of my old offices, I expected to see a former colleague—a career senior foreign service officer—but was stunned to find out she had been abruptly forced into retirement and had departed the previous week. This office, once bustling, had just one person present, keeping on the lights.

When Rex Tillerson was announced as secretary of state, there was a general feeling of excitement and relief in the department. After eight years of high-profile, jet-setting secretaries, the building was genuinely looking forward to having someone experienced in corporate management. Like all large, sprawling organizations, the State Department’s structure is in perpetual need of an organizational rethink. That was what was hoped for, but that is not what is happening. Tillerson is not reorganizing, he’s downsizing.
Wow! It's exceeding rare to hear any mention of the federal bureaucracy and downsizing in the same paragraph. Maybe there's hope yet, even if Donald Trump sometimes acts the idiot on Twitter.

Freeman writes:
The former Obama appointee is apparently so unnerved by the Trump-Tillerson era at State that he lets slip the fact that the career staff didn’t think much of the previous management either, and that the conservative critique of the department is at least partly true ...

Do taxpayers dare to dream? As odd as this sounds for regular observers of the federal leviathan, the new boss seems to be imposing the kind of tough measures often seen at struggling companies, but almost never witnessed at government departments that have lost their way ...

Perhaps the Tillerson method could work at other agencies too. Mr. Bergmann [the poobah] for his part seems to be disappointed that the un-elected career staff has not been able to impose its will on the duly-elected political leadership ...

Here’s to making the will of voters more than just a distant concern—and highly relevant to the work of federal agencies.

Meanwhile over at the Environmental Protection Agency, new boss Scott Pruitt is not just draining the bureaucratic swamp in Washington, he’s taking away the agency’s power to oversee swamps nationwide.
There's an old anti-lawyer joke that somehow seems appropriate at this point:

Q: What do you call 1,000 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean?

A: A start!


Maybe what we're seeing is "a start."